Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Puff Daddy puts the bling in politics

Sean `Puff Daddy' Combs, in tryingto get the minority vote out, promisesto make the US election this yearthe `sexiest' one to date

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Bridgehampton, New York

Sean Combs showed up at his White party in Bridgehampton, New York, Sunday, with a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

Not svelte, leggy or catwalk worthy, she wasn't his typical date. But when Sean Combs waltzed into his sixth annual white party with an original copy of the Declaration of Independence on his arm, the couple managed to turn more than a few heads.

"No one would ever expect a young black man to be coming to a party with the Declaration of Independence, but I got it and it's coming with me," Combs joked. "And I promise not to spill champagne on it."

Part political pep rally, part music video come to life, Combs' Fourth of July soiree doubled as a kickoff event for Citizen Change, his nonpartisan get-out-the-vote organization, which is trying to increase minority and youth participation in the American electoral process.

"Citizen Change is going to hip young people and minorities to the game," said Combs, who was in white linen pants, a matching vest and a silk ascot. "I don't really have faith in politicians or politics, but I have faith in the power of the people, and if we educate ourselves about the hustle we can make things right."

Held at the PlayStation 2 estate, a rambling retreat here, it might have been the first political rally in history to have go-go dancers in attendance.

Combs arrived from Broadway after taking his bows as Walter Lee in the Sunday matinee performance of Raisin in the Sun. He flew to the Hamptons with his entourage, which included several fellow cast members, on two chartered helicopters -- one red, white and blue, the other military green with logos for Combs' Sean John fashion line and Citizen Change.

"This is like being with the president," the actress Phylicia Rashad squealed as she boarded the chopper. (Rashad won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Walter Lee's mother in Raisin.)

The party's dress code -- white from head to toe -- was strictly enforced, to the chagrin of many who were turned away. One forlorn-looking man who identified himself as Allan Smith, tried to flout the fashion edict with red sneakers. He was finally allowed into the party -- barefoot.

"They wouldn't let me in with them on," he said looking down at his toes, "so I hid them in the woods nearby."

Some partygoers seemed more content discussing fashion than politics. ("What the hell is she wearing?" one woman sniffed as a blonde in a skimpy bikini sauntered by.) But others like the R&B singer Mary J. Blige were feeling the activist vibe. Blige, who has never voted, said that after watching Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, she was eager to head to the polls in November.

"I have to vote this year," she said. "After seeing that movie, I can't do anything else."

Blige wasn't the only celebrity in the house. Aretha Franklin, the boxer Lennox Lewis, the professional socialite Paris Hilton, the rapper LL Cool J and the omnipresent Reverend Al Sharpton were also milling about.

Shortly after Combs urged the crowd of more than 800 to get out and vote, a band of spoken-word poets took the stage and delivered a spirited interpretation of the Declaration of Independence.

T-shirts emblazoned with the logo "Vote or Die" were distributed throughout the evening. Combs acknowledged that the slogan was a bit dramatic, "but that's what this election needs, some drama, some emotion, some passion," he said. "Hopefully it will encourage candidates to start speaking from the heart and not just reading the speeches their campaign managers wrote for them."

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