Ron Rice, Creator of Hawaiian Tropic Lotion, Is Dead at 81

Ron Rice, a highschool chemistry instructor who had been skilled to probe for oil, however who as an alternative made a fortune by concocting coconut-laced suntan lotion in a 20-gallon rubbish can in his storage and seductively branding it Hawaiian Tropic, died on Could 19 in Daytona Seashore, Fla. He was 81.

His dying, in a hospital, was introduced by his household on Fb. No trigger was specified.

A dust-poor boy from North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Mr. Rice turned smitten with Florida’s ocean shores whereas on a household trip within the Nineteen Forties. Years later, after a go to to Hawaii, he was impressed to tackle Coppertone, a number one model of suntan lotion, which promised naturally pale sunbathers like himself that they might tan, not burn, in the event that they slathered themselves with the product’s zinc oxide, alkyl benzoate, isopropyl palmitate and different substances.

After graduating from faculty in 1964, he transplanted himself to Florida, taught for eight years (in fleeting positions at seven faculties, however lengthy sufficient to accumulate a draft deferment) and labored half time as a soccer coach and a lifeguard, positions nicely served by his 6-foot-3 top.

On the facet, he blended myriad combos of coconut oil, unique fruits, aloe, avocado, kukui, mineral oil and cocoa butter till they mixed right into a lotion that a number of 11-year-olds he enlisted from the neighborhood poured from that foundational rubbish can into bottles labeled Hawaiian Tropic and offered for the primary time on the seashore on July 20, 1969. (Coconuts weren’t native to Hawaii and have been most likely initially cultivated on islands in Southeast Asia, however the identify Tropic Tan was already trademarked.)

By 2006, after years of unabashed promotion by way of magnificence pageants judged by celebrities (Donald J. Trump met his second spouse, Marla Maples, when she was a Hawaiian Tropic pageant contestant), car races (the corporate identify was on a Porsche pushed by Paul Newman at Le Mans in 1979), and crafty and not-so-subtle placements in movies and on tv exhibits — together with varied different stunts — gross sales of Hawaiian Tropic had topped $110 million, making it the second-largest sun-care product firm on the planet.

A yr later, Mr. Rice offered it to Playtex Merchandise for $83 million.

“Suntan is intercourse,” he as soon as mentioned. “That’s what all of it boils right down to. Intercourse and vainness.”

Ronald Joseph Rice was born on Sept. 1, 1940, in Asheville, N.C., to Clyde and Pauline (Crosby) Rice.

The household lived on a mountain. From the time Ron was 5, he would be part of his siblings at their roadside stand promoting apples, cider, honey, grapes and Christmas wreaths to complement their father’s earnings as a civil engineer.

He earned a Bachelor of Science diploma from the College of Tennessee in Knoxville, the place, based on a number of accounts, he was finding out to probe for oil and uranium, and to be a instructor.

“I used to show faculty and I used to make $4,300 a yr. 4 thousand of that was the instructing half, $300 was the teaching half,” he as soon as informed a TV interviewer. “I did that for eight years. I may return to that if I needed to, however I’m not saying I wish to return.”

“It’s enjoyable,” he mentioned of his balmy way of life, lubricated with Hawaiian Tropic, “and there’s a variety of further toys concerned, and a variety of enjoyable occasions, and I drink just a little better-quality wine, in fact, however I’m nonetheless a rustic boy.”

Data on survivors was not instantly obtainable.

Mr. Rice’s 12,000-square-foot house in Ormond Beach, simply north of Daytona Seashore and never removed from the lifeguard stand the place he as soon as labored, housed a disco and an indoor-outdoor pool. He owned an 80-foot yacht and a Lamborghini that he lent to Burt Reynolds for the movie “The Cannonball Run” (1981).

As a reminder of his roots, and a testomony to his success, Mr. Rice positioned in his lounge the rubbish can through which he had perfected the formulation for Hawaiian Tropic. He had it silver plated.

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