Book Notes: Meet the man
who sold the moon !
By Frances Werner
One of the major benefits of running a bookstore is learning about new and wonderful books from your customers. But when someone whose judgment I trust, a long-time community volunteer with more than a touch of class, enthusiastically suggested that I read a book by a man who sold one-acre lots on the moon, I was a tad skeptical. And then when she urged us to host an author event featuring this "Moon Man," I began to wonder if, in addition to lowering the river flow this summer, the County had put something in the water.
As soon as I got the book in my hands and saw the photo on the cover, I realized that I knew the Moon Man and I'd seen him in action in Berkeley. You'll recognize him, too, if you ever spent any time at the crazy carnival on offer at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue in the 1970s, or at any of the other many college campuses Moon Man visited during that time. He was that guy in the metallic space suit with the funny spiel, selling moon lots for a buck, and providing a very official-looking certificate of sale. His name is Barry McArdle, and his new book is "I Sold the Moon!"
And what a story it is. As a recent college graduate in 1971, Barry McArdle knew he wasn't destined for corporate America, and was casting about for something that would allow him to be independent. How he conceived, developed, and perfected the sale of lunar real estate, is a large part of the story. The engaging and very funny routine you may have seen was a performance art that McArdle refined over ten years as he crisscrossed the state and the country.
He even sold the moon in Ireland while visiting relatives, but the Irish police were not amused and arrested him on the grounds that he must be doing something wrong. A bemused judge decided that, since no country could lay a valid claim to the moon, his court had no jurisdiction over the matter and he dismissed the charges.
McArdle himself never asserted that he had legal title to the moon -- he would simply say that no one person or country had claimed it and that left him free to stake his own claim. What he was really selling, with humor and chutzpah, was something else altogether: a conversation piece suitable for framing that you could dine out on for years.
McArdle's odyssey is also the story of the social and sexual revolution of the early 1970s. These years produced not just the famous "sex, drugs and rock & roll" lifestyle, but also a greater tolerance for idiosyncratic behavior and a more optimistic view of the future than we enjoy now. As McArdle says, "I believe that as long as people anywhere are free to speak in city squares, on university campuses or on street corners, then people everywhere are reminded that freedom expressed is freedom realized."
Spoken like a true lover of civil liberties -- even if he is a lunatic. Whoops! Well, that's really the point. So I'm going to hawk for the Moon Man. Come to River Reader on Saturday, August 25, at 11:00 a.m., and meet Barry McArdle where he will be in full Moon Man regalia. AND if you purchase a copy of his book, you will receive, in addition to a well-written account of his lunatic antics (sex, drugs and rock & roll included), a bona fide certificate entitling you to one acre on the moon (transportation not included).
Fascinating, Insightful, Well written, An Unexpected Love Story.
By Angeli Baci (Cielo)
Barry is an exceptional writer, a romantic and a real character with refreshing insights into human nature.
His book gives the reader a look at the days of "Free Love" and an understanding that it was never free.
The images Barry creates flow on the page and the depth of emotion evoked from his bittersweet romance is delightfully balanced with the humor of his 'moon' work.
Barry McArdle is not your everyday 'Joe' his inventive mind and the quiet support of his father along with a secret dream to be a circus barker allow him to follow a dream that leads him to an entertaining income and a modicum level of celebrity. But secretly he is a romantic thrust into a generation that sees monogamous relationships as passé and free love as their mark on the world. With hormones raging, the romantic must succumb and true love wistfully lost.
If you enjoy stories about people - fiction or biographical - you will find Barry McArdle's book fascinating and an easy read. He captures you with his love, his humor, and his antics. Engaging and fun, I recommend - "I Sold the Moon."
News and Reviews
UC Berkeley alumni reviews
The Sunday Press (November 25, 1973) – (Ireland)
“MOONSELLER” Had no license to sell acres of the moon!
“30 buy plots at one pound an acre.” “Our legal advisers are battling our case before the American courts. We are claiming that we have a right to sell land on the moon.”
Dublin Times morning edition. The headline was all in caps, it shouted:
MOON SALESMAN FACES DUBLIN SNAG
This article began: “Unlike several of his fellow Americans, Barry McArdle has never been to the moon. But his fascination for things lunar landed him in trouble…”
(Berkeley, CA: The Daily Californian - January 29, 1974)
“Land Boom on the Moon?”
LUNACY…? Gullible buyers, may discover that their land lies on the bottom of a crater, or is inaccessible.”
(San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Examiner - 1974)
“He’s all spaced out in a loony business”“In one hand he holds an inch stack of one dollar bills and in the other a stack of certificates… ”
(Riverside, CA: Daily Enterprise - December 12, 1974) Laughter ‘a legitimate business’
“Moon Man’s dollar-an-acre sale of lunar lots interrupted by police”
“The Riverside Police dispatcher sent word of a “5150” (psycho)… “I assume they’re looking for me,” McArdle remarked as the officers strolled into the quad area…”
(Redlands, CA: The Daily Facts - 1974) Former Redlands youth will gladly oblige
“Wanna buy a piece of the moon?”
“If I can make people laugh, that’s important,” he said. “If they laugh, they tend to support the person who makes them do it.”
(San Luis Obispo CA: Telegram/Tribune – January 28, 1975)
“Selling pie in the sky”
“After each half-hour sales pitch, which drew laughter and loud applause from hundreds of students… dozens of them flocked, dollar-in hand, to buy a piece of the moon...”
(University of Long Beach: The Forty-Niner - February 20, 1975)
“The man who sold the moon”
“McArdle explained that part of the reason for his selling of moon lots was an attempt to get lunacy into the open…”
And a year later, (March 18, 1976) I was back on the front page of the school paper generating this headline:
“Moon Man still selling lunar land”
“A spaceship slowly descends on the moon… and hundreds of property owner’s rush out to stake claims on the Hartland Crater they bought from the Moon Man...”
(California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo: Mustang Daily – January 28, 1975)
“Moon salesman invades campus”
“Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s small step for man, but large step for mankind, also might have been a crime: trespassing…”
(The Cincinnati Enquirer – May 16, 1975)
“Buying A ‘Moon Acre?’ Say Cheese”
“Buyers know it’s a joke,” he laughed, “but if any of the deed holders make it to the moon they can grab any acre they like…”
(San Francisco Chronicle (AP) – May 19, 1975
“Land Sales on the Moon -- $1 an Acre”
“Barry McArdle is selling pieces of The Rock, but the rock he’s got up for sale is the moon…”
(University of Cincinnati: The Newsrecord – May 20, 1975)
“Moon Man: lunar con or sale of laughter?”
“Each lot, comes with a fantastic view and is prime acreage around Moon River….”
(The Sacramento Bee – June 25, 1975)
“Loony Real Estate” ‘Reach For The Moon’ Is His Pitch
“A buck doesn’t go far these days, but at least it can get you a piece of the moon – on paper, that is…”
(Madison, Wisconsin: The Capital Times – August 13, 1975)
“Buy a Piece Of Moon: $1 an Acre”
“Barry McArdle landed in Madison Tuesday and hawked deeds to the moon… I found out that all the jobs had been taken by dropouts…” he said
(University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee: The UWM Post – September 25, 1975)
“Moon monger makes money”
“He’s been punched out, beaten up, bombarded by water balloons, pelted with tomatoes and eggs – but Barry McArdle continues to sell pieces of the moon with a few laughs thrown in for free…”
(Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette Tribune – October 3, 1975)
“Get a piece of the moon, lunar-tic urges students”
“Marquette was thrown into near hysteria Tuesday when the world’s 32nd marvel, the mysterious, caped, hooded, speckled Moon Man materialized…”
(The Milwaukee Journal (Green Sheet) - October 9, 1975)
“The man in the moon business”
“… beguiling hundreds with a delightful “sales” routine and proving that lunacy still lives...”
(San Bernardino, CA: San Bernardino News – December 15, 1975)
“Caped crusader selling little pieces of lunacy”
“The moon man is back!” The cape-crusading salesman shouted into the wind from the trunk of a Toyota…”
(University of Southern California: Daily Trojan – February 12, 1976)
“No cheese, just $1 for a plot of land on the moon”
“… He said he wanted to discredit the rumor that the certificate can be ground down and smoked in order to get high…”
(California State University, Northridge: Daily Sundial: February 25, 1976)
“Moon man sells ‘moon acres’ to CSUN students”
“Once, for example,” Moon man said “a man yelled out to me, ‘You phony con man!’ I take exception to that,” I said to him. “What do you mean ‘phony’?”
(Los Angeles City College: Los Angeles Collegian - February 27, 1976)
‘Moon Man’ Stirs Lunar Land Craze
“Described by some as a “confidence man” and by others as a “peddler of dreams,” “I’m a living example of why not to take LSD...”
(California State University, Fullerton: Daily Titan – March 24, 1976)
“Man appears at CSUF to sell shares of moon”
“People who buy the deeds are buying entertainment,” he said. “Who knows, at some point in history these acres might be worth more than a dollar bill.”
(USC: Daily Trojan – May 5, 1977)
“GALAXY REAL ESTATE”
“The Moonman returned to campus Wednesday to offer students another chance to buy one of the few remaining choice plots of land on the moon…”
(San Jose State University, CA: Spartan Daily – October 28, 1977)
“Invader peddling lunar acreage”
“… ‘Even if one doesn’t want an acre, maybe a friend who has just had a “frontal lobotomy” will,’” McArdle said.
(Chico, CA: Chico Enterprise-Record – November 10, 1977)
“Phony Deeds Hot Item”
Own a Chunk of Moon!
“With one hand full of dollar bills and the other full of bogus deeds to land on the moon, Barry McArdle fires a rapid series of jokes at his gathering audience…”
(Redlands, CA: Daily Facts (UPI) – December 7, 1977)
“Moon property all in fun”
McArdle sells real estate 240,000 miles from anyone
“… I’ve found Americans have not lost their sense of humor…”
(Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Times – December 11, 1977)
“30,000 SALES IN SIX YEARS”
Real Estate Man Promises the Moon
Land for sale: Exclusive, reasonable, comes with hour’s worth of laughs.
“Barry McArdle sells real estate that is 240,000 miles away from the nearest supermarket or school. And yet he has made at least 30,000 sales in the last six years…”
(University California David: The California Aggie – February 10, 1978)
“Invasion On Quad”
Moon Man Sells Lunar Acres
"… McArdle, who told the crowd that he simply wanted to trade paper for paper. ‘Look at the value of my paper,’ he said, ‘its been stable since 1971, you can’t say that about your paper..."