NEW YORK — Still fly, still relevant, still making multiple hustles lucrative. Sean [artist id="1244169"]"Diddy"[/artist] Combs is 40 years old. The money in the room was anything but dirty on Thursday night, as Diddy celebrated his birthday (which was actually November 4) in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. The atmosphere was almost like Garden of Eden meets "The Godfather," with trees, grass and black decorations. Diddy and his goodfellas came dressed in tuxedos, the ladies in elegant gowns, and all were greeted by ballerinas serving drinks.
A little before midnight, the host walked in with a huge entourage that included [artist id="1838768"]Trey Songz[/artist], [artist id="500995"]Tyrese[/artist], [artist id="1244296"]Red Café[/artist], Andre Harrell and director F. Gary Gray. [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist], [artist id="1243444"]Young Jeezy[/artist], [artist id="2000082"]Rick Ross[/artist], Kim Kardashian, Martha Stewart, Gayle King, Jimmy Fallon, Bell Biv DeVoe, Jimmy Iovine, Bono and countless others all came to express their love for one of the most important figures in music over the past two decades.
"Some people start at 19, [by] 26 they're done. He's 40. He's better than he's ever been," Russell Simmons marveled. "He's hotter now than ever. I just watch him. He keeps getting better. He never changes with the hustle. He branches out in different areas, opens new doors. He's an inspiration."
[artist id="760701"]Nelly[/artist] echoed that sentiment. "It's incredible, he's one of my biggest inspirations in this," he said. "He does the most in everything, probably working with the least. He maximizes it to the max. You see somebody doing that, how can you not want to be inspired by it?"
Estelle said the greatest thing she's learned by watching Diddy over the years is to "do things your way versus doing things anybody else's way. Do it the way you're gonna do it, and be extra big and extra large."
"It's 4-0. You just get better," actress Regina King said. "Forty is the new 30; it's elegant. He wants everybody to be beautiful [at the party]. So the photographs, when he looks back on it 20 years from now, he'll say, 'Look how beautiful we were.' It's an opportunity to get pretty and throw on pretty dresses.
"I love the way [Diddy]'s evolved," she added. "I'm glad he's grown up. Whether he likes it or not, he's still a role model. You can be a good role model or a bad role model. He's grown up in a lot of people's eyes. Those kids who want to be like him, they're gonna pull up their pants and look to be [in multiple businesses] as opposed to just the rapper."
So do the industry icons who've already past this milestone age have advice to give Mr. Combs?
"The great thing is, he has done so much in 40 years. There's a lot of advice he can give to other people," Grammy winner Herbie Hancock said. "There's so much he's learned. I hope he continues to do that, continues to grow. I see this path he's set for himself to expand and continue to grow in various directions. That's a great inspiration to others."
Russell Simmons agreed. "There's no advice. Put one foot in front of the other. What advice can I give him? Smile and breathe."
And dance! Diddy is known for having his guests dance all night.
"The thing I can appreciate about Puff is that at one point you can go into any club and from 12:30 on, every hit they're playing, it's a Bad Boy hit," said actor Malcolm Jamal Warner, who's known Diddy since the '80s.
"I'll make sure I grab Lil Kim and we'll cut up the rug definitely," "Dancing with the Stars" pro Derek Hough smiled. "One of my all-time favorite songs was the 'Mo Money, Mo Problems.' Even now when it comes on, I'm a cheeseball, I'm a dork. I'm out there singing the whole song. I get into it."
DJ Cassidy and D-Nice spun the records at this party, but Kid Capri listed the playlist he wanted to hear. " 'Mo Money, Mo Problems,' you gotta have that," he said. "You gotta have any Biggie record, 'Hypnotize,' 'Juicy,' 'One More Chance.' There's so many bad Boy records that was classics! It was like that with them. They gonna keep moving too."
While the DJs played all the hits, they could not compare to a live performance by Al Green, who took the stage to sing "Love and Happiness."