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

With all that history in mind, one wonders just how well today's Beach publishers are faring beyond the glowing press releases and paparazzi-laden shindigs. "You'll see great ads in the beginning with these magazines," cautions the media liaison for one Miami public-relations firm, "which entices other people to advertise -- öOh, you've got two pages from Cartier! Gucci is in there! Bulgari!' But a lot of people don't realize those ads are given away for free. A lot of my clients are happy to get the free press, but look a few months later and see who's still there."

You won't hear of such dampened spirits over at Lincoln Road, where (shades of Corey Augenstein) "unique" is the buzzword on everyone's lips. Their audited circulation may be only 28,900, and editor in chief Denise Sypesteyn declines to reveal their 2004 revenues, but she points to Lincoln Road's recent upgrade from a bimonthly to ten issues per year: "If we weren't on target with our projections, we wouldn't be able to do that."

Loft's audited circulation is also anemic at 28,000, though its executives note that separate editions have already been launched in New York and Los Angeles. And while advertising beyond real estate projects remains sparse, Loft seems to be having little trouble finding eager backers willing to bet on its future -- at least if a recent multimillion-dollar preferred-stock offering is any indication. Nikki Style publisher Peter Higney is likewise upbeat, trotting out the now de rigueur "unique" as he describes his product. While Higney's claim of having a circulation of 30,000 seems a bit high (Nikki Style is unaudited), he touts his magazine's international appeal, given its tie-in to the eight Nikki Beach clubs and resorts around the globe, from Miami to St. Tropez.

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

A rare note of realism comes from Ego Miami co-owner David Bick, previously known for his stewardship of Lola Bar on South Beach. "We keep our costs low, none of us drives Porsches," Bick quips of his co-workers at the Ego Trip spinoff. The key to thriving, he continues, is to avoid a head-on confrontation with Ocean Drive while grasping for the low-hanging fruit its marketplace jockeying leaves behind. "There are still lots of very cool fashion shops that want to be next to Michael Stipe and Gwen Stefani," he explains, pointing to two of his recent cover subjects, "but who can't afford to pay $4000 for an ad in Ocean Drive."

Bick also confronts a grim daily reminder of how important it is to keep Ego Miami's own ego in check: "Collins Avenue magazine used to be in the office right next door to us."

Back at Ocean Drive, Kulchur asks Jerry Powers to consider his own publishing career -- there must have been some stumbles along the way. Why has his magazine grown while so many others have disappeared from Miami? What exactly does he know that Franco Pizzorni or Richard Bronson didn't?

"Oh, it's my MBA from Harvard, my business-school experience," he answers, deadpan, before cracking up. Powers has worn many pre-Ocean Drive identities, from Sixties rebel to Eighties art dealer, but none of them involves the mantle of a strait-laced CEO. Indeed the transition from Yippie to Yuppie was anything but smooth, involving drug arrests, writing bad checks, and pleading guilty to the IRS for failing to file tax returns for two years. All of which seems very distant from his current position running a phone-book-size publishing phenomenon with 54 full-time employees.

"What did Sinatra say?" Powers muses. Tilting his head to the side, he smiles and begins playfully crooning the chorus of "That's Life": "I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. "

Kulchur gently breaks into the reverie, mentioning Powers's October 2004 cover choice of presidential aspirant John Kerry's daughter Alexandra, a decision that raised more than a few eyebrows.

"That was a mistake," Powers concedes, repeating the words several times, reminding himself as much as Kulchur. Not that Alexandra Kerry was a handful. "Unlike Paris Hilton, she showed up for her shoot on time," he jokes. "I didn't have to worry she was out somewhere the night before getting too loaded." And compared to the hulking security crews many stars travel with, the Secret Service agents who accompanied Alexandra were relatively unobtrusive as they flitted around his office.

Neither was Powers concerned that Alexandra didn't look the part of a cover girl. She certainly appeared demure enough in her feature layout. And though Powers took a bit of ribbing over Alexandra's decrying of George W. Bush's elitist economic policies while decked out in an Yves Saint Laurent top and Gucci heels (not the most effective argument against her dad's perceived "limousine liberalism"), he's well acquainted with the parameters of radical chic.

As publisher of Miami's Vietnam-era Daily Planet underground newspaper, Powers did advance work for Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman at the Beach's 1972 Republican National Convention, where he dodged tear-gas canisters and police charges while arranging TV and radio interviews for the two protest leaders.

But these days Powers is a pillar of the very establishment he once railed against. And with so many of Miami's power brokers -- from real estate kings to auto magnates -- cementing their ties to the Bush family, particularly with the term-limited Gov. Jeb Bush's expected return to town as a partner with über developer Armando Codina, choosing political sides can be bad for business. "I just wanted to spend a night in the Lincoln bedroom," Powers says with a sheepish shrug, referring to his Kerry boosterism.

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