Ocean Thrive

Call it what you will -- mindless fluff, starstruck drivel -- but Ocean Drive has perfected a formula that's the envy of the publishing world

Augenstein is quick to lambaste the "total incompetence" of his sales staff -- "they couldn't even give away ads!" -- but ultimately, he says, "I blame myself for all this. I got in way over my head. Too many positive seeds were planted in my head that this was a no-brainer." For now it's back to the Websites he quietly runs, which offer tutorials on succeeding in the field of "midlevel marketing."

Of course, when Kulchur first met Augenstein a year ago, he was delivering a far less humble spiel. Holding court at last spring's annual Wolfsonian Museum gala, he was full of grand plans. Ocean Drive was a "worthless product" coasting on its reputation, he brashly declared, while his own magazine was poised to become "the essence of class, distinction, affluence, and style."

Stepping outside downtown's Alfred I. Dupont building to smoke a cigarette on the street below, he continued to detail the many ways his own venture would squash the competition: "I know all about the publishers who are in it just to get laid. This isn't about fitting into a certain social circle for me."

Ocean Drive founder Jerry Powers has good reason to smile
Jonathan Postal
Ocean Drive founder Jerry Powers has good reason to smile
The highest form of flattery: A sampling of the many efforts to cash in on 
Ocean Drive's success
The highest form of flattery: A sampling of the many efforts to cash in on Ocean Drive's success

As if on cue, a statuesque blonde exited the gala with her husband. Spying Augenstein, she approached, eyes glaring. "What did you say to me before?" she huffed as her visibly enraged husband stood beside her, his hands clenched into fists.

"I, uh, was trying to tell you you're very beautiful," Augenstein stammered, his eyes darting between the scowling husband and Kulchur's note-taking pen.

"Well, you've got a funny way of saying it!" she snapped.

Augenstein inched backward, weighing his options, until the husband decided he'd had enough. "Peace and love," he muttered, grabbing his wife's hand and leading her off to a waiting cab.

So what was your big pick-up line? Did you tell her you owned a magazine?

"Oh, that's not important," Augenstein blushed. Then, pausing for only a few beats, he regained his composure. Did Kulchur truly understand just how "unique" Collins Avenue was going to be?

Wounded pride aside, Augenstein can take comfort in knowing he's merely one in a long line of would-be machers with dreams of taking on Jerry Powers. Hitting the streets at roughly the same time as Ocean Drive in early 1993 was South Beach, a similar collection of scantily clad gamines, fashion tips, and party pictures. In less than a year its founders, Paul and Katherine Arthaud, closed up shop, having blown nearly a million dollars.

Fashion Spectrum was the next deep-pocketed contender to arrive in 1996, helmed by Venezuelan-born venture capitalist Franco Pizzorni, who delighted in tweaking Jerry Powers via a series of barbed ads. "They went head-to-head with us for events," remembers Ocean Drive senior account executive Michele Addison. "Every week there was another huge party. I can't even imagine how much money they were spending on it all."

Aside from penning a series of bizarre columns about his UFO sightings and his fears of creeping Satanism, Pizzorni seemed to have little enthusiasm for the less ethereal nuts and bolts of putting out a magazine. While he was more than happy to open his North Bay Road waterfront mansion for a Miss Universe fete, Fashion Spectrum editor Lori Capullo complained to the Daily Business Review that she could never persuade her boss to concentrate on actually acquiring subscribers. Another ex-Fashion Spectrum staff member sighed to Kulchur that "we could never get Franco to show up in the office for editorial meetings. But if we had a cattle call of models coming in for a photo shoot, he'd be the first person there. "

Apparently tiring of the financial drain, Pizzorni folded his publication in July 1998. But his employees didn't have to wait long for a new patron hoping to cut a dramatic profile. Just one month later, having hit town amid a flurry of well-publicized art purchases and philanthropic contributions, New York stockbroker Richard Bronson added to his portfolio by hiring Capullo and eleven of Fashion Spectrum's fifteen staffers to launch the nearly identical Channel.

Another magazine, another year of model-clogged parties. By 1999 Channel had become Channels, a tribute to Bronson's expanding vision, and given Bronson's subsequent SEC banishment from Wall Street over charges of defrauding investors, a convenient way of dodging the publication's growing list of creditors. January 2000 saw the magazine sold to Chris Olsen and Brad Rosenblatt, who, after changing its name to Channels International, losing some $750,000, and filing a series of lawsuits against each other, would in turn sell the venture to Sheriff Ishak in October. Ishak eked out another year with the requisite dose of "supermodel search contests" before decamping to Manhattan, where he now publishes Zink. (Bronson is currently serving two years in prison for securities fraud.)

One would think that this track record might dissuade even the hardiest aspiring Miami media titan. And yet, after losing out to Ishak in his bid to buy Channels International, telecom millionaire Shawn Lewis remained undaunted, bankrolling the party-picture-packed Ego Trip as a way to spotlight his string of South Beach nightclubs. Having supposedly lost his fortune in the wake of 2000's dot-com stock crash (and several disastrous margin calls), a blasé Lewis flew to Los Angeles for a November 2001 courthouse child-support hearing. There Lewis testified he'd written off his $350,000 investment in Ego Trip -- "you can't get blood from a stone" -- since the publication was near collapse. This despite also having hired publicist Ingrid Casares to the tune of $8000 per month to help promote his various projects.

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