About Utah: Sounds corny, but actor likes life in Heber

Published: Sunday, Sept. 18 2011 10:43 p.m. MDT

Max Strong enjoys an ear of roasted corn at Jason Lively's "Jimmy Crack Corn" stand at the Park City farmers market.

Lee Benson

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PARK CITY — You know that well-known story line about the person biding his time down on the farm, so to speak, all the while daydreaming and plotting about the day when he'll make it to Hollywood and become a star?

Well, sometimes that story line can work in reverse.

Consider the case of Jason Lively, owner and operator of Jimmy Crack Corn, a mobile roasted-corn business that has become something of a local sensation this summer at farmers markets and community gatherings along the Wasatch Back.

Jason's big seller is called "South of the Border," a giant ear of corn slathered in mayonnaise and seasoned with Parmesan cheese, chili powder and lime. He swears it's addictive, and from the lines outside his roaster he may be right. Already he's expanded his operation to the football games at the University of Utah and BYU, and he's talking about possibly selling franchises.

In movie lingo that would be a sequel.

Jason knows movie lingo. He was in his first movie when he was 13. His most famous role came when he was 16 and starred in "European Vacation" with Chevy Chase. He was Rusty, the teenage son of Clark and Ellen Griswold.

"I was a child actor," says Jason matter-of-factly as he loads up a South of the Border fresh out of the roaster.

He comes from a family of actors. His mom, Elaine Lively, is an actor manager. His stepfather, Ernie, is an actor coach and has been in more than 100 movies and TV shows. He has four brothers and sisters — Robyn, Lori, Eric and Blake — all with extensive IMDb databases to show for it. Blake Lively is dating Leonardo DiCaprio at the moment, or at least she is according to People Magazine. Robyn Blakely is married to another well-known actor, Bart Johnson.

The whole family is in show business.

And Jason, 43, is in Utah selling corn.

It's exactly where he wants to be and it's entirely by choice.

Four and a half years ago, his parents bought a vacation cabin in the Park City area, and Jason, his wife, Lani, and their two oldest boys came for a visit.

As they were leaving to go back to California, Lani turned to Jason and said, "Don't you wish we could live somewhere like this?"

Jason couldn't stop thinking about that comment. He was about to turn 40, the boys were about to start school, the computer company he was working for would allow him to telecommute.…

"I'd always wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of L.A.," he says. "It dawned on me, if I don't move now, when will I?"

A few weekends later, he and Lani made an offer on a home in the Heber Valley and, voila!, that was a wrap.

"Never regretted it a minute," says Jason.

Becoming a corn baron was not in the master plan, it just sort of evolved.

One day he was at a farmers market and was in the mood for an ear of roasted corn like he remembered from the California markets he used to visit with the family.

But there was a problem.

There was no roasted-corn stand.

Just that quick, an entrepreneur was born.

He bought a top-of-the-line roaster, a trailer to carry it on, a van to haul it with and found a place to buy corn fresh out of the husk.

The rest took care of itself. He's spent so much time selling corn this summer that he's had a hard time fitting in his full-time job.

"The great part about it is it's made me such a part of the community," says Jason, who makes his roaster available to charities and fundraisers.

"This is the life," he says. "Don't get me wrong, I loved being an actor. It was a great experience being involved with Chevy Chase in his prime. But show business can distort your vision of reality; it can make you think you're entitled. And I always wanted to live in the mountains, and now that's exactly where I am."

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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