Barry Gibson has the dirt on Michael Jackson, Michael J. Fox, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Linda Evans, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson and David Letterman. Actually, this is not entirely accurate. Gibson doesn’t have the dirt on these celebrities (hold those tipster calls to gossip columns); he has dirt from them.
Gibson, 41, of Lansing, Mich., is an ex-McDonald’s employee with a janitorial business who’s just trying to make ends meet. So he packages earth from the yards of celebrities in two-inch vials that he wholesales for $1. “It’s fun,” says Gibson, who has traveled to Nashville, Los Angeles and the East Coast in search of product. “But I wouldn’t mind making money at it.” Despite sales of some 20,000 vials, after travel and other expenses Gibson’s profit has been nil.
One of his first samplings came from Johnny Carson’s lawn. Or so he thought. In fact, it was from the property of Carson’s ex-wife Joanna. Gibson sent a sample to the late-night host, and a delighted Carson mentioned it in his monologue. Joan Rivers was equally thrilled with her vial. “Thank you,” she wrote, “for being so kind as to send me the ‘dirt’ on Liz Taylor.”
How does Gibson get the dirt? Trowel and error. In Beverly Hills and Bel Air he invests in movie-star maps. “Of course, they’re not always accurate, but it’s a starting point,” he says. Gibson digs carefully between wrought iron bars, under gates. When the coast is clear, he digs “where it’s already tilled up—in flower beds, around shrubs.” And he works days only. “I’m not going to sneak around at night,” says he. “That’s too risky.”
And just what are buyers supposed to do with the dirt? Fulfill fantasies. Sprinkle the dirt in your sheets, say the instructions, and sleep with the star of your dreams. Not your idea of a good time? Well, Gibson digs it. “It’s an adventure,” he says. “It’s an adrenaline charge to see a house and know I have to get the dirt.”