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Henry Stone, who produced gold and platinum records with KC and the Sunshine Band, was a regular advertiser. "I really liked Jerry's attitude," Stone says. "We hit it off and hung out at the clubs together. Miami was a swinging town back then. And Jerry was a very progressive guy."
In the early 1970s, the Magic City was a heady place. Then part publicist, part newspaper owner, Powers was a force to be reckoned with in the city's counterculture. One of the people he stewarded around town was Allen Ginsberg, the famous poet who was the voice of both the beatniks and the hippies. "I brought Ginsberg to Miami Marine Stadium for a poetry reading," Powers recalls. "He read his famous poem, 'Howl,' but he changed one line to say, 'The police in Moscow are like the police in Miami.' The cops providing security just went apeshit and shut us down."
A few years before, at a drive-in on the John F. Kennedy Causeway, Powers met a petite 20-year-old brunette, Sandi, who would become his wife. Together they saw Hair at the Coconut Grove Playhouse from the front row while tripping on acid, and accompanied Doors lead singer Jim Morrison to an intimate performance of Canned Heat at the Newport Hotel in Sunny Isles Beach. Morrison had been busted for indecent exposure March 1, 1969, and thrown in jail. "It was when he had to come back to Miami for his court date on the obscenity charge," Sandi says. "He got up onstage, but the owner asked us to take him out of there. He was afraid he was gonna pull another stunt."
Hanging out with the most popular artists of the era prepared Powers for his turn with the famous and the fabulous in South Beach near the end of the 20th Century.
In 1972, Miami Beach hosted both the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions. That year, Warner Books hired Powers as a publicist for Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, leaders of the yippies, who held massive protests here. The young newspaper publisher was tasked with contacting radio stations and newspapers at the end of each day to report on the duo's doings. "The police planted an undercover agent in our office," Jerry cracks. "His name was Paul Hammond. If that was his true identity, I don't know. We had fun with him, though. We dropped LSD in his soup. He was so stoned out of his mind he didn't remember who he worked for."
There is, of course, no way to prove the truth of his story.
As the hippie love era came to a resounding end, so did Powers's success. In 1971, he was arrested once for writing bad checks. Some were small ($15 to a Missy Alspach), and others were large ($1,278 to Always Better Service Plumbing). He fought some of the charges, and in several cases, warrants were issued for his arrest after he didn't show up in court.
In 1972, his daughter Jacquelynn was born, but that didn't change his lifestyle. The next year, police busted him for public drunkenness and possession of cocaine. (The charges were later dismissed.) And in 1978, he was nabbed for trying to obtain drugs with a forged prescription. That felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and transferred to county court, where, Powers recalls, he was found not guilty. (The records have been destroyed.)
Civil court records show Powers was sued 13 times between 1977 and 1984 for money owed. "I was dependent on drugs when I did those things," he says. "I was stoned and broke. There is no question I wrote checks even though I didn't have money to cover them."
His drug diet consisted of cocaine, barbiturates, amphetamines, "and whatever else was around," Power says. In 1984, he claims, he went cold turkey. By then, he, Sandi, and their then-12-year-old daughter had relocated to Manhattan.
After a brief career as a book agent, Powers in 1986 signed on as business manager for pop artist Peter Max, whom he'd met years before. Both men reaped the fruits of the '80s art boom. Powers purchased an apartment on Manhattan's Park Avenue and bought a summer house in the Hamptons. Max, whose psychedelic work includes the Beatles' Yellow Submarine image, became an international superstar.
The pair's lavish spending caught the attention of the Internal Revenue Service, which audited Powers and Max in 1990. IRS investigators discovered Powers had not reported more than a half-million dollars in income earned selling art in 1988 and 1989. According to federal documents, Max also failed to report $1.1 million in sales.
By early 1992, with the IRS breathing down his neck, Powers severed his relationship with Max and sought a new venture in a much warmer and friendlier clime. His buddy Henry Stone remembers meeting Powers for dinner one evening in Manhattan. "He announced he was coming back to Miami," Stone says. "He had this vision about doing a magazine."
Powers claims he and his wife came up with the name during a New Year's Eve stroll on Ocean Drive one year earlier. "When the clock struck midnight, Ocean Drive was just a lively place," Powers says. "The atmosphere just captured the concept we were going for."