The Powers Behind Ocean Drive

For South Beach publishing magnate Jerry Powers, life wasn't always marked by glamour and upstanding citizenship. Some would argue it still isn't.

The affinity makes some sense: Both men are dazzling self-promoters with checkered pasts, and both fell instantly in love with South Beach, which has always attracted that type.

Like Kramer, Powers has earned his share of enemies. Most are former Ocean Drive staffers who complain that their boss lived the high life as publisher while often failing to reward his employees as promised. Two former workers have sued the magazine, both on the grounds that they were not paid monies owed them. At least two others say they have contemplated legal action.

Many people who were interviewed for this story said they feared that speaking publicly about Powers could jeopardize their future in publishing. One notable exception isCyn. Zarco, a columnist who worked at Ocean Drive as a freelancer until this past July, when the magazine severed relations with her. Zarco filed a suit accusing Ocean Drive of withholding more than $3000 in back pay, and of stealing the name of her column, "UpLate." Besides the suit, Zarco has lodged any number of broadsides against Powers. She claims he exploited the magazine's trade advertising arrangements for his own personal benefit, eavesdropped on employee phone calls, even appropriated celebrity party invitations intended for her.

All lies, Powers counters. He won't comment about the pending suit, but he says he has misled no one, eavesdropped on no one, and never received any goods or services from an advertiser without reimbursing the company. "Our accountants have given us a chart telling us exactly what we can and can't do," he explains.

"I can't help but feel that part of the reason this story is being written is due to disgruntled employees," Powers adds with a sigh, "and the fact that Ocean Drive has takena huge chunk of advertising revenue from New Times."

Still, Powers admits, his newfound position of prominence may have something to do with public scrutiny of his past and present business dealings. "I'm fair game," the publisher concedes glumly.

There was a time when Jerry Powers was thrilled to be viewed as fair game. Like other members of the Woodstock generation, back in 1969 he considered getting arrested to be a badge of honor.

As publisher of the Daily Planet, he was arrested twice, after police deemed his publication "obscene material." He keeps news clippings of these busts close at hand, in a desk drawer that also holds a stack of Daily Planet covers. To visitors, Powers offers up the memorabilia as an artifact of the lean days when he was on the cutting edge of the counterculture.

In a different sense, Powers is again on the cutting edge. He has molded Ocean Drive into a bustling concern. He has attained the financial security that eluded him throughout his young adulthood, survived his addictions, and become a rising star in the capitalist establishment he once railed against.

Of course, Powers tries to downplay the contrast between his life then and now. He points to the ecology column Ocean Drive runs monthly, and attempts to compare the youthful exuberance of hippiedom with the youth worship of South Beach. He speaks of his altruistic endeavors, which include volunteering time and ad space to charitable groups such as the United Foundation for AIDS and the Dolphin Project.

He plainly hankers for the old days, though. You can hear it in his tone, which grows urgent whenever he recounts past exploits. You can also hear it in the way he describes Ocean Drive, the hint of derision. "People pick up the magazine to look at fashion and trends and gossip," he says. "It's a light read." After a lengthy pause, he adds, "I guess in 1968 my stand on Ocean Drive magazine would have been that they're not taking stands on very many social issues."

Then again, no one ever got busted for selling out.

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