Diddy's Big Night

The dapper rapper waded into a melange of celebrities ranging from Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Nelly, Kelis and Ashanti to the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton, Pamela Anderson and Ben Stiller.

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One who's apparently available is Jay-Z. Always the consummate businessman, he arrived wearing his signature Rocafella bling, schmoozing the crowd. After describing the fragrance as "incredible," he declared: "Diddy's a leader of hip-hop culture. He's opened doors for us." He then turned to his posse and was heard saying, "Let's get the hell out of here."

Unforgivable got a thumbs-up from Ashanti: "It smells sexy," she said.

Nas is also a fan: "It's hot." He added, "And I'm a cologne connoisseur. I got very old bottles of cologne at my crib. What you know about Grey Flannel? But it don't matter that he's my man — if I didn't like it, I wouldn't wear it."

While showing off her black-and-white Miu Miu pumps to onlookers, Kelis, Nas' wife, said she loved the fact that Diddy was launching a fragrance.

"It's hot, it's great," she said. Indianapolis Colts' defensive end Dwight Freeney agreed. "It smells nice. I like it," he said.

Speaking of football — the career path that Combs originally planned to follow before breaking a leg in college — the rapper was still nursing a sports-related injury he'd sustained several weeks ago. "My son Justin's football team was playing Snoop Dogg's son's team [both men coach their sons' teams]. Justin's team won, and he was so happy that he jumped on me and dislocated my finger," said Combs with a grin, showing the splint still on his finger. "But that's a good injury."

Injured or not, little can keep Combs down, because the Diddy plays hurt. And he's out in full force to support the launch, appearing on a host of shows from the "Today" show to "The View." Last Monday, while taping a segment of the "Late Show With David Letterman" that will air tonight, he even tried a novel way of sampling the product: spraying Letterman's mouth with apple juice in an Unforgivable bottle. Letterman returned the favor; both seemed to approve of the taste.

John Demsey, global president of the Estée Lauder and MAC brands, has overseen the Diddy project, including its controversial print ad, which was shunned by a number of stores. He pointed out that it hasn't been since the days of Calvin Klein's Obsession in 1985 that a launch has created such a stir. The ad features Combs, clad only in a sheet, in bed with two women — one of whom has her head on his bare thigh, suggesting a ménage à trois. It also is unusual to have a two-stage launch plan with a high-priced component in Saks Fifth Avenue last fall and a more mainstream version in department stores now. As a result, Lauder has upgraded its sales target from the top five to the top three.
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