sean-puffy-combs_web.jpg MIAMI BEACH — On Tuesday morning at the posh Blade restaurant in the Fontainebleau Hotel, about 25 public relations staffers, caterers, models and photographers buzzed about the leather-paneled lounge, waiting for Sean “Diddy” Combs to arrive.
Diddy, a multitasking machine, was in Miami Beach to promote Ciroc, his premium-brand vodka, and his new music group Dirty Money, whose album, Last Train to Paris, drops in March 2010.

He wore shades to deflect the camera flashes while sitting down briefly to talk with the South Florida Times

First off, entertaining. What’s Diddy’s signature drink this season? Why, The Diddy, of course: equal parts Ciroc, cranberry juice and orange juice.

“It’s not one of those drinks where you take a shot and make the sour face,” Diddy said.

It’s not really what you’d call a manly man’s drink, but Diddy’s comfortable with his swag.

“I was always a pina colada or fuzzy navel kind of guy. Everybody has a unique palate. I like drinks that taste good.”

It seems Diddy is mellowing out. He stresses drinking responsibly, chooses tuxedos for celebrations, and prefers house parties to clubs. He also says good times don’t have to be expensive.

“Just like money can’t buy you love, it can’t buy you a great party. A lot of people think a party is about celebrity, or how much you spend on it. I think a party is about the outcome, if everybody had a good time. A great party, one of my favorites, was just ten of my closest friends, on an island having a good time. Or at my house in New York.
Just close the door, pull down the shades, and turn up the music.”

Diddy hasn’t done his Christmas shopping yet, but he ain’t cheap: He’s given houses as presents on several occasions.

“Everything changes with women every year, so I’m waiting for the hit list. I haven’t gotten it yet this year, but I’ll try to do some snooping around.”

His own favorite gift was a new Bible: “It was just beautiful, and it was something that meant a lot to me.”

Diddy has been around the world and achieved success as a record executive, actor and fashion designer. With Dirty Money, he returns to a music career that’s been on hiatus since 2006’s Press Play.

The group, consisting of Diddy, Dawn Richard of Danity Kane and singer-songwriter Kalenna Harper, has two singles out: “Angels” is laced with a previously unreleased verse by the Notorious B.I.G. and is available on iTunes, and “Love Come Down.”

Despite his boardroom success, Diddy can’t seem to leave the stage alone for very long.

“It’s just, once you’ve seen or felt what it feels like to give joy to 70,000 people in a stadium or 5,000 people in a theater—there’s nothing like that. There’s no high like that, there’s no feeling like that in the world. It’s not an addiction, but it’s something that I love to do, and as long as I feel I can do it, well, I’m gonna do it.”

But the normal markers of fame aren’t what drive him. Diddy, nearing 40 and rumored to be worth almost $350 million, says he’s got deeper motivations.

“My motivation is to become a better man, have balance in my life. Spend more time with my kids, become a better father, a better son. My motivation has nothing to do with money. I’m just really trying my best to please God and please my family.”

One way is by helping aspiring young people break into the music industry. As a student at Howard University, Diddy received an internship at Uptown Records from record producer Andre Harrell. This launched his career.

He said he sees his reality shows, MTV’s “Making the Band” and the VH1 series “I Want to Work for Diddy,” as his way of helping others get a foot in the door.

“Opening up opportunities for other people and giving people a chance definitely has something to do with me getting a chance… [Kids today] wanna be their own men or their own women, they want to make their own money, they want to be entrepreneurs.’’

He continued: “They don’t want to wait for people to give it to them. I think the successes of Oprah, Michael Jordan, myself, Tiger Woods, Jay-Z have at least proven that you can go out there and make it. And I think a lot of kids today have more dreams than they did before. Giving people an opportunity is a great thing.”

Is there any downside to being Diddy? Yes, he says.

“What’s hard is the human side of things that sometimes people don’t understand I need to do, like be with my family.”

That won’t be changing anytime soon; Diddy is planning to ring in the New Year either in Miami or Las Vegas—with a party, of course.

But he says he will keep one tradition to remind him of home: “Collard greens on New Year’s Day. That’s a must.”

about holiday parties, what’s next, and the one “down home” tradition he keeps no matter what.

Photo: Sean "Diddy" Combs