OKLAHOMA CITY — Jim Tice knows where to find a rare poison from Africa and a 350-pound woman willing to bounce naked on a trampoline, but he's still looking for a Lamborghini owner willing to let a teen-ager go for a spin.
Tice, who operates a business called Finders Keepers, specializes in obsessions. He will search the world over to satisfy the cravings of anyone willing to pay the price.
Tice's motto is a promise to "search for the stuff that dreams are made of," as long as it is not detrimental to anyone, illegal or immoral.
Finders Keepers was the child of his career in advertising in the 1970s, when he earned the reputation for finding anything needed for any production, such as an unusual object for a backdrop.
Inquiries, from the sad to the absurd, have ballooned to 4,000 per year from around the world since he opened his business, and the enterprise continues to expand.
Franchising of Sorts
To aid in his searches and satisfy future finders who hungered for the taste of the hunt, Tice set up the Freelance Finders Network. Members pay $20 a year to receive tips on search techniques and lists of searches under way.
The finders fee is split with the free-lancer who obtains the object, uncovers the information or finds the person.
"We provide them with hundreds of searches to sink their teeth into," he said. "Over the years, we've developed a tremendous resource file which contains information on thousands of experts, key personnel, societies and different specialists from one end of the globe to another."
He also has a private investigative firm that helps to find people or things that might be dangerous. Another firm does data research for business, scientific, medical or technical queries and a third firm handles treasure hunting.
His reputation continues to grow. Hollywood has approached him with three offers based on Finders Keepers.
Sticking to Business
But he isn't letting the attention interfere with his search missions, which continue to amaze everyone but Tice.
Some of his more bizarre searches include the hunt for a 350-pound naked lady needed for a scientific film on the study of motion.
"That one was fairly easy. We found three ladies to audition for the part."
Tice also has managed to find 300,000 ladybugs for a landscaping project and tracked down a perfume for singer Dolly Parton. "She had gotten the perfume 17 years ago and all she had was an empty bottle," he said. The bottle had no name and no perfume left in it.
"We found out the company had gone out of business, but we located the maker and had a couple of ounces re-created for her," Tice said.
One of his ongoing searches is for two fleas dressed by a craftsman in Mexico during the 1920s for a wealthy industrialist.
"It was a wedding party of fleas. They were mounted on a pedestal, but one of the guests left the dome off the pedestal and a guard dog ate them. We need a groom and a bride," he said.
Important to the Client
The more commonplace searches generally include out-of-print books, autographs of famous people, addresses to reach any person in the world and sentimental objects from decades past.
"You never laugh at the small, frivolous requests of a client. It is important to them," Tice said. Comedian Pat Paulsen is looking for a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer sign that depicts a waterfall; actress June Lockhart wants a Howdy Doody rocking chair in working condition.
A Michigan client absolutely must have a Cpl. Digby crossing guard. Another seeker wants the cigarette lighter used by Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon."
Tice's business also has expanded to include industrial and business searches for information and manufacturing facilities for special kinds of products.
However, his "people searches" have been some of his most memorable.
"There was a lady dying of cancer who wanted us to locate her sister before she passed away. They hadn't seen each other in 35 years. We found her and they saw each other days before she passed away," Tice said.
Finders Keepers now is doing a search for a client who dated a young girl in 1923, from whom he "parted company when he found she was a prison escapee who had murdered two members of her family. He recently discovered she'd had a baby in prison a short time later. He's in his 80s now--and wondering. She passed away in prison. He'd like to know if that child is still living, and if it's his," Tice said.
Tice's most memorable search was for an authentic Indian headdress.
"We had a request from the family of a child who was 7 years old and dying who wanted the headdress--not a tourist thing, but one made by the Indians and used in ceremonies.
"We worked it out with a tribe to have one prepared for the boy and shipped it to him. He got it a week before he died," Tice said.
Searchers or finders can contact Finders Keepers at P.O. Box 53082, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73105.