For its sixth annual Holiday Tour Of Homes, the Ormond Beach Historical Society will offer several interesting places to visit. All will be on the beachside, including the great antique house of Dr. Chip Woodard, the Elliott home and the Chanfrau house.
But none will be more interesting or more eclectic than the home of suntan oil king Ron Rice. A while back I went there to sit with him and reflect on his career and the fine home that it built. Raised in the mountains of western North Carolina, he majored in geology in college and then worked briefly in the oilfields of Louisiana. After deciding that might not be his preferred course, he wound up in Ormond Beach where he took a summer job as lifeguard.
While on vacation in Hawaii, Mr. Rice noticed the local people used a mixture of natural oils to combat the tropical sun. Once back in Ormond Beach, he began to experiment with aloe and other natural lubricants. At first he made sun tan oil for his own use. With his fair complexion, sunburn was a constant problem as he worked on the beach. Once he had perfected his product, he began to sell it up and down the beach. Ron would hire students from nearby Seabreeze High School (my wife Lana was one) to help sell his oils. After a lot of work, his Hawaiian Tropic suntan products became an international hit.
Always one with a flair for show business, Mr. Rice began to stage beauty pageants to promote his business. Eventually those would become television specials with an array of impressive celebrity judges. Mr. Rice would become the world's suntan oil king and Ormond Beach would be its capital.
In the 1980s, Mr. Rice designed and built a beautiful home that sits on the dunes overlooking the spot where he once manned a lifeguard tower. It is a most unique place and reflects its owner's varied interests. The Atlantic Ocean is visible from every room and there is a swimming pool inside that connects to another outside on the deck.
Through the years Mr. Rice has invested in several movies and some of those posters are displayed. In the great room 28 large photos of his beauty pageant winners line the ceiling. Mr. Rice is famous for leading the Playboy lifestyle and when I asked him if he might be Ormond Beach's version of Hugh Hefner he smiled but did not deny it.
We spoke of a TV pilot that was filmed locally in the 90s with Mac Davis playing a thinly disguised Ron Rice and he listed an array of celebrities who have been to the house. Among them were Sam Kinison, Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield and, my own favorite, Benny Hill. Benny was known to be a recluse and Mr. Rice told me it was a real coup to get him to come to Florida to judge a beauty contest.
A few years ago, Mr. Rice sold Hawaiian Tropic and now is enjoying his retirement. A devoted father, he closely follows his 22-year-old daughter, Sterling, as she pursues a career as a professional quarter horse racer.
Don't miss the home of this most interesting self-made man.
The Tour Of Homes will be on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 9, and tickets are limited. There will be shuttles provided and refreshments will be served at the Anderson-Price Building. This event is always a sellout, so get your tickets now at the MacDonald house, 38 E. Granada, Ormond Beach, or call (386) 677-7005.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.