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© Jerry Powers 2013
A multitude of people are telling me to start writing about the earliest days of Ocean Drive magazine: Get to those first few months, the staff, the great relationship I forged with Gianni Versace, the celebrities, the supermodels and the transformation of this fucked-up city. It’s all coming and I promise it’s going to be great. Ian Schrager, Madonna, Sly Stallone, Gianni Versace, Oliver Stone, Diddy, Dennis Hopper, Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, Aerosmith, Bruce Weber, Calvin Klein, Kenny Scharf, The Spot, the Bar None days, Sinatra Bar. Standby. Ocean Drive and Eighth Street, Volleypalooza, Thomas Kramer, pussy galore—it’s all coming soon, trust me.
The Miami where anybody could get a fresh start—and I did meet them all. The Miami that since the ’20s (and continues to this day) somehow draws the “I’m down on my luck, let’s try a winter in Miami” crowd.
We helped create the all-night parties. It was a warm-all-year, smack on the ocean beach town. Rooms were $79 a night, condos for $99,000. Cracked neon lights, corrupt cops, nude beaches, boyish great-looking openly gay guys, models looking to be discovered by Herb Ritts or model agency owners like Michelle Pommier and Irene Marie. These young girls and guys from the Midwest toted their portfolios by day and, at night, were lured by the best blow on the planet and pervy, old New Yorkers who could talk them into any down and dirty nasty sex for a c-note.
The word got out fast: It was a two-and-a-half hour flight from New York and despite tourists getting robbed (being used for target practice, really, especially the Germans) they kept on coming. Yes, there were often weekly jokes by Leno and Letterman depicting South Beach as a place you went to see your grandmother, but that notion was as old-fashioned as South Beach used to be. The TV bashing did nothing to slow the hipness.
Maybe it was in the air, but rich and poor kept on coming. Girls just needed a few skimpy black dresses. Guys, almost nothing but the T-shirt on their back and a nice set of abs. Who needed a Tourist Board with the sprinkle of well-placed items on “Page Six” and that New York magazine cover story? Money was essentially irrelevant with $600 monthly rentals widely available and $7 cocktails (free if you were hot). And if you worked it, by 3 a.m., you had a 70 percent chance of sharing your bed with someone fun—especially since there was no Google or Facebook in the early ’90s.
Miami Beach, d/b/a South Beach, was ready for a nuclear explosion and three of them came at the exact same time: Hurricane Andrew, Thomas Kramer and Ocean Drive. We built this city immediately after the biggest hurricane ever to hit our shores since 1926. It was all catalyzed by the arrival of a crazy German with about $80 million in his pocket, and a down on his luck, almost broke dreamer who wrote about and glamorized eight blocks of pure bullshit.
Ironically, part of why it happened was my Plan B. It had to do with a narcissistic, 24-year-old Long Island kid; a speedy, incredibly ballsy schmatte salesman named Jason Binn.
But first we gotta go to Russia!
Beause it all started years earlier, in 1989. I’m at Newark International Airport, about to board a private, chartered 757 to Moscow. As in Moscow, “the Evil Empire.” Not Russia, but the CCCP. Something out of a John le Carre novel. It was a spooky place. Gorby had taken power and was a handpicked old guard commie. A few years later, he had a game-changing awakening, but in 1989, it was exactly like what I would imagine a trip to North Korea would be like today. Only a handful of Americans traveled there other than spies, diplomats, spooks, journalists and a few brave travelers looking for a thrill or a pretty, young Ruskie blonde.
I was not doing any of the above. I was getting on a plane with almost every heavy metal band in America for what was billed as an anti-drug concert, put on by “The Make A Difference Foundation.” By a massive amount of twists and turns, I was part of a team that was going to work on the first ever rock festival in Moscow. At Lenin Stadium yet. No shit. It was Bon Jovi and his band, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row, Cinderella, Motley Crew, Gorky Park, the Scorpions. Why help produce an anti-drug music festival for 100,000 young Russian kids? Because a Federal Judge in North Carolina, armed with a six-page handwritten plea from Jon Bon Jovi, allowed music manager Doc McGhee to perform community service instead of serving up to 20 years hard time after pleading guilty to a drug bust that today would be valued north of $20 million. If you think this shit only happens in movies you are probably right—but this happened. This is true.
And that’s how I ultimately met Jason Binn. Because in Moscow, I had a chance encounter with his father, Moreton Binn, at the check-in line of a seedy hotel.
Let’s fast forward again, to the summer of 1992. And Plan A. New York City: It was a new day, bright and sunny, a perfect July morning. As I hit the elevator button for a very high floor on West 57th Street I was feelin’ good—too good. I was on a natural high. Within an hour I would be on my way to Miami Beach to start yet another new magazine. I smelled a winner and a winning team: me and Randy Schindler, the founder, owner and publisher of Hamptons magazine. All we had to do was sign a few contracts and off I go!
A dream was about to become real. Right? By the end of the day I would be sleeping in my new house we bought a few months earlier on a gated island on Miami Beach. I was so happy, I think I was singing “Good Day Sunshine” in the elevator. The receptionist at Grubman, Indursky, Schindler (at the time, the number-one entertainment law firm in the country) led me right into the den of the dealmaker of all time, Allen Grubman. In this untypical lawyer’s office, overlooking the best view of Central Park ever, Allen was sitting on his couch next to his immaculate, gleaming spotless, paperless coffee table. Allen didn’t have a desk. It looked just like a formal sitting room. No files, I don’t think he even had a computer. And rumor had it, that he never even read a contract.
Standing in the corner looking out of the window refusing to glance at me was Randy. Allen said there were some issues. I went over to the window and pointed to Central Park West and told Randy that no matter what, the fully packed moving truck outside of my Central Park West apartment was about to head to Miami. I told him that I was not going to renegotiate anything. I said, “Sign and come with me, or bye-bye.” All bets would be off. After a few hours with Artie Indursky, Allen’s partner, I realized the Jerry-Randy deal was not happening.
Moments later walking on West 57th Street I realized it was time for Plan B. I called Jason Binn and told him to pack. He did, and for the next four years it was the Jerry-Jason show. And what a show it was.
Coming next: Hurricane Andrew, The News Cafe, Claudia Schiffer, Gianni Versace, Eric Milon, Cassis, Tommy Pooch, Tara Solomon, Michael Capponi, Gary James, The Spot, Thomas Kramer, The Forge, Shareef Malnik.