Partytime At Puff Daddy's

Chris Harris | July 8, 1999

A silver Mercedes Benz SLK 230 snakes its way down Cedar Point Road in Northwest Woods. Fifty miles an hour and climbing.

The automobile glides across the blacktop, hugging each curve like a frightened child clinging to her parents in a thunderstorm. It barely brakes before zipping up Bearing East Road, now exceeding 60.

Left onto North Pass Road, then right on Landfall. Suddenly the car stops and pulls in behind a bright yellow Porsche 911 - the caboose of an endless string of high-priced cars already parked on the shoulder.

The speed demon exits his car and heads north. Destination: Puff Daddy's barbecue.

Party Palace

Sean Combs, as Puff Daddy is otherwise known, has drawn media attention and the ire of some neighbors since moving into a $2.5 million abode on Hedges Banks Drive in April of last year.

Mr. Combs, who has a resume that reads like fiction (multi-platinum rap artist, Grammy-award winner, producer, president of Bad Boy Entertainment, and co-publisher of Notorious magazine), was condemned by several neighbors just months after settling in for hosting a pair of parties, one on July Fourth and a second on Labor Day.

Both, the neighbors argued, brought too many people and too much traffic, and produced too much noise.

His latest fiesta was Saturday.

Plea To P

"Yo P! Can you get me in?" hollered one of nearly 20 spectacularly dressed spectators stationed across the street from Mr. Combs's estate that afternoon. The call came seconds after one crasher in the crowd snagged a fleeting glimpse of the rapper and announced it to the rest of the bunch.

Leaning over the second-story porch of his house, peering down at the mob of groupies, guests, and security guards, Mr. Combs, the gold chains around his neck swaying to and fro, shrugged off the plea as if helpless to do anything.

Birthday Favor

"Damn, man. I just got to get in there," the young man uttered before taking a slow drag from his Marlboro Light.

The jingle of the Mr. Softee ice cream truck parked in the driveway chimed on and on. The aroma of a summer barbecue drifted through the humid air, and so did rhythm and blues, circa 1975.

"It's my daughter's birthday," yelled Susan Baldridge of Smithtown, who braved the Long Island Expressway on one of the busiest weekends of the year so her 8-year-old daughter, Felicia, could meet Puffy.

"I love you, Puffy," the little girl screamed.

Hearing this, Mr. Combs motioned to a security guard to escort the mother-daughter team inside. They had managed to do what a host of stylish wannabes, many of whom had spent hours standing in the street with crossed fingers, had not.

Across the bluestone of the slanted driveway, past the ice cream truck, and through the veranda opening onto Mr. Combs's backyard, the music grew progressively louder with each stride toward the party.

Bikinis And Coladas

There, a gorgeous woman, wearing a tiger print bikini, sat in the shallow end of the pool, a pina colada in her hand.

"This pool is really warm," she remarked to another female, also in a bikini.

The designer Betsey Johnson was sitting at a table adjacent to the pool, drinking wine and chatting with a gaggle of slender models. A laugh here, a chuckle there.

The DJ booth, set up next to one of two bars (this one serving frozen drinks only), was stuffed with party guests. The tender voice of Lauryn Hill resonated through the 20 or so speakers that lined the grounds. The speakers were encapsulated in tan plastic, shaped to resemble small boulders, and arranged strategically to create a surround-sound effect.

A group of women lounged across white bed sheets and white jumbo-sized pillows on the plush grass.

Jay-Z, another high-profile rapper, who it is rumored may be looking for a place of his own on the East End, sat on a bench under a tree near the other bar, that one for mixed drinks, beer, and wine.

The Real Ticket?

A fan tried to determine whether he was actually Jay-Z.

"I think that's him," she whispered to another, then advanced toward the rap star, slowly and quietly. Leaning forward, perched on the ball of her left foot, she snuck a peek.

She scurried back to her friends. "That's him, that's him," she whispered loudly.

The line for the barbecue moved at a snail's pace. Guests grabbed at hot dogs, sweet corn, oysters, and shrimp. The help, wearing white golf shirts bearing a black "PD" insignia stitched over the left breast, dished it out while scanning the grounds for famous faces.

Pouring . . .

The bartenders had their hands full too, serving rum and Coke after rum and Coke. "A gin and tonic please," said one party-guest.

"Can I have an Amaretto sour?" asked another.

"What kind of vodka do you have?"

Outside the main entrance, a green Mercedes pulled up to the driveway. A valet galloped over to the driver's side door and threw it open.

A long leg emerged. Connected to the lanky limb was a slender brunette sporting a white mini-skirt, a black tube top, and a pair of identical bruises, one under each eye, marking her recent plastic surgery.

Next came a Cadillac sports utility vehicle, followed by a Land Rover tailed by a Hummer, followed by a Porsche. The automobiles just kept coming - BMW, Porsche, SUV, BMW, Jaguar, SUV, SUV, SUV, Jeep, Benz, SUV, and a Ford Escort - in that order.

"I'm sorry, ladies, you're not on the list," said the sentry at the foot of the driveway to three slinky, whiny, women.

"But we're on Josh's list," protested one.

"Well Josh isn't here, so if you would kindly step back please," he warned, pointing toward the herd of other rejects.

Defeated, the girls shuffled across the street, pouting.

Army Sentinel

Retired Army Col. J.C. Barb sat in a folding chair at the foot of his drive way directly across the street from Mr. Combs's front gates. Smoking a cigar, he spoke not a word, simply keeping watch.

Meanwhile, at the barbecue, Mr. Combs made the rounds, welcoming guests, hugging associates and fellow rappers like Busta Rhymes, and posing for pictures.

Heading to the bar, he was cut off by two of his neighbors. Wearing a pair of white pants, no shirt, and clutching a bottle of white wine, he stopped to talk to the older couple, who live just down the road.

Working The Crowd

"Thank you so much for the invitation, Mr. Combs," one of them said, grabbing his hand and forcing a handshake. The neighbors took a quick snapshot with their famous neighbor, who then continued on his way, stopping here and there to meet and greet guests - like a politician but without the baby-kissing.

Meanwhile, some children stared at a juggler, while others waited as a clown contorted three long balloons into a hat for one of them. A magician roamed through the pack of party-goers near the pool, performing card tricks.

Ivana Trump, dressed in a skin-tight blue sequined dress, kissed Mr. Combs "hello" as he headed toward the house.

Tyson Beckford, the chiseled male model, sauntered by a five-foot-high platform, on top of which a blonde in a red, white, and blue bikini was gyrating to the music.

Catching sight of the model, who was wearing a white T-shirt with an anti-Giuliani message scrolled across the front in black, she stopped gyrating for a minute to take him in.

The rapper Q-Tip, a former member of the recently defunct group A Tribe Called Quest, was at the turntables, mixing one of his own tunes, "Award Tour." This sparked a positive response from the crowd, who hooted, danced, and sang along.

Beautiful Swimmers

Russell Simmons, president of Def Jam Records, posed with Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes for a group picture by the pool. A few of the female guests, who had plunged into the swimming pool, were topless.

The women swam around, soaking up the instant attention, as male guests flooded the area, disposable cameras in hand, to take some photos.

Bill Bellamy, the former MTV VJ, headed toward the frozen drink line and eyed the pool briefly, smiling to himself. Elisa Bridges, a former "Baywatch" cast member, and Carmen Elektra, another "Baywatch" star, strutted in from an alcove leading to the back porch in tight black and pink skirts, respectively.

They walked by all the poolside commotion unnoticed - something they seemed awkwardly unaccustomed to.

Humbling Exit

At 10 p.m. the bash started to die down. "Great party," a very tipsy blonde noted as she passed the security guards at the main entrance.

Ms. Trump and her boyfriend, Roffedo Gaettani, exited as a valet barreled down Hedges Banks Drive, stopping a black Porsche just before Puff Daddy's driveway. The Trump car headed toward Colonel Barb's driveway to turn in the other direction, rousing the man, who sprang from his seat.

"This is a private driveway," he barked at Ms. Trump. "Turn around and go up the street."

"Very Disturbed"

Asked whether he knew who the woman he had just chided was, Colonel Barb replied, "I don't give a damn."

"Puff Daddy promised the neighbors that we wouldn't be disturbed," he said, again taking to his chair. "I have been very disturbed."

"Puffy is stingy," said Will Young, who is renting two doors down the street. "The invitation went out to all the neighbors with a 'plus one.' Let him do what he has to do, but Puffy must treat his neighbors better."

Others were Puff Daddy positive.

"Mr. Combs is very respectful of his neighbors," said another neighbor, who requested anonymity. "I think it's great he's throwing parties. It's in the tradition of the Great Gatsby."

Jeannie Sacks, who lives just down the road, said the party was no problem at all. "I think he's a very nice neighbor. He was nice enough to invite the neighbors. It didn't bother me," she said.

"It was a little crowded, but if it's once a year, that's fine."

"It's one day a year," agreed Jill Epstein, who is renting a house nearby. "If Puff Daddy wants to throw a party, more power to him."

Consulting A Lawyer

Debra Lobel, a former acting town attorney who lives next door to Mr. Combs, but who was not at home during the shindig, would not comment about the party, saying only, "I am in touch with an attorney to see what I can do to protect my peace and quiet."

Ms. Lobel has complained about the rap mogul's soirees in the past, both to the East Hampton Town Board and in letters to The Star. She maintains that the gatherings lure throngs to the already tight block, last sometimes until daybreak, and create way too much noise.

Town police were called to Mr. Combs's residence on several occasions through the night, according to security staff working the party, but merely to insure that traffic snarls along the road were eased, pronto.

Under The Limit

Frank Duffy, who owns and operates Protocol Limited in East Hampton, which handles security for Puffy's parties, said there were never more than 172 guests inside at one time.

Mr. Combs's mass gathering permit, required by the town if more than 50 guests are expected, was limited to 200. "We turned at least 400 people away," said Mr. Duffy. "They had to be on the list or they couldn't get in."

According to Mr. Duffy, who held the guest list all evening, "only 240 invites were sent out."

"The list we had of [R.S.V.P.'s] was 80. Then, you have to double that because most people usually bring guests. And there were 20 invites given out to very close neighbors."

So Many Friends

That didn't prevent some crashers from giving it the old college try.

"No more than 20 tried to sneak in. Some tried to climb over the fence, others tried to come up the dunes by the bay. You'd think someone was giving something away in there."

Other people were a bit more cunning, but still failed.

"People would come up and say they were Bill Higgins, and I would look through the list, and there was no Bill Higgins. They would be looking on the list, and see a name like Arthur Harris. Then they would come back later claiming to be Arthur Harris."

"I have never been associated with this kind of a magnet," said Mr. Duffy. "People were crashing this party like they knew him. And when I told them their names were not on the list, they'd say, 'Get out of here, I know Puffy.' "

Everybody, it seems, knew Puffy personally that night.

" 'I know Puffy,' 'Puffy told me to come,' 'Puffy put me on the list.' 'I am his attorney,' 'I'm his best friend,' 'I'm his brother's friend.' We heard a lot of stories."