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Diddy Smells More Money

Diddy | Meat Loaf | Lenny Bruce | Judi Dench

Diddy Smells More Money

Sean "Diddy" Combs launched a fragrance last night with the usual fanfare that accompanies his projects.

The perfume is called "Unforgivable," but there were just enough well-intentioned jokes that it could have been dubbed "Unindictable" or "Acquitted" or "Unbelievable."

And don't think Diddy did with this fragrance what he's done with music: He did not, contrary to some gossip, "sample" other perfumes and then add his own rap.

"Unforgivable" is totally original, and all the idea of this very unusual entrepreneur. Combs continues to succeed where others fail, and he's almost becoming fodder for business-school curricula.

No Diddy-do would be complete without at least a few celebrities. The "Unforgivable" soiree was held at the very new, very private and very exclusive new CORE Club on East 55th St. in Manhattan, in the shadow of the Friars Club.

I spotted Ben Stiller and Josh Lucas (separately), plus Nelly, Robin Givens (just starting on Broadway in "Chicago") and Combs' fellow hip-hop mogul Damon Dash.

When Combs arrived, he was dressed in his trademark gray pinstriped suit, sporting shades and just enough diamond bling to give him that extra sense of shine. Of course, he didn't make his entrance until almost two hours after the party started, but that was to be expected.

Combs has a $30 million record deal at the new Warner Music Group, and believe me, they were well represented.

Company owner Edgar Bronfman Jr. stopped in to see how things were going, and Warner's chief of urban music, the erudite Kevin Liles, chatted with friends while he awaited Combs' entrance.

Liles told me that Combs' long-overdue album is coming in June, and it's very different from anything we've heard before.

"It's really all about world music," Liles said, "and there won't be a lot of sampling of known pop songs. Sean's working with a lot of really interesting producers."

You read it here first, and I'm not surprised. If Combs is going to get attention, he has to leave the arena he invented — lots of sampling — because Kanye West has moved in and taken over.

Combs also has to make a big splash and sell some records to make up for that $30 million investment from Bronfman and pals.

This could be something big. Maybe he can make the CD package scented!

Meat Loaf Heats Up

I told you last May that Steve Popovich — the former Sony Music exec who brought the singer Meat Loaf and his megahit "Bat Out of Hell" album to the label in 1977 — won a $5 million lawsuit against the record company.

The issue was that Sony had settled with Popovich in 1998 and agreed to put the logo of his record company, Cleveland International, on all the Sony Meat Loaf CDs.

On May 27, 2005, a jury awarded Popovich $5,057,916, or roughly half the amount Sony was ordered to pay later in its payola case with the State of New York.

You'd think they'd just pay it, wouldn't you? And put the damn logo on the CDs. But nothing is simple in the record business, not when you're dealing with egos.

Now Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.. of Ohio's Northern District has issued a 37-page ruling that doesn't cast Sony in the best light but helps Popovich in his quest for vindication. Oliver denied Sony's motion for a new trial.

At the same time, he stopped Popovich from collecting any more money from Sony than that which the jury had already decided. Popovich wanted interest on the $5 million from 1998; the judge said he could only have it from last May.

At this point, though, Sony — at least from Judge Oliver's perspective — would be smart to just wrap this up. The legal fees must be staggering.

Popovich is sanguine about the latest episode. Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" album has had three lives, he points out: on record, on CD and again after Meat Loaf's recent revival with a new album.

Popovich says, "I lived up to my word; I signed an 82-page contract with CBS, now Sony/BMG, in 1977, after being an employee for 20 years, that gave them ownership of one of the biggest albums in the history of the music business.

"To date, 'Bat Out of Hell' has sold over 40 million and at one time was listed in the top five albums ever released. In return, I was to receive a royalty and my Cleveland International Records logo on all Meat Loaf master recordings. I had to sue to get them to do either. I still don't know when, or if, I will receive the settlement in this case. In the meantime they hope you die or go broke so they can continue to rob your kids and grandkids."

Lenny Bruce Lives

The ground-breaking comedian and social commentator Lenny Bruce has already had his life translated into a hit Broadway play starring Cliff Gorman and a subsequent successful movie with Dustin Hoffman.

Last night, veteran concert promoter Ron Delsener unveiled a new one-hour theatrical presentation at the Zipper Theater called "Lenny Bruce: In His Own Words."

Alec Baldwin — looking very trim for his own imminent off-Broadway play, "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" — came with his lovely girlfriend, Nicole. Kyra Sedgwick was also in the audience, as was MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams and his dad, famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams.

It turns out that Floyd Abrams won Bruce a posthumous pardon in 2003 for his 1964 conviction on obscenity charges having to do with foul language. The posthumous pardon was a first, issued by New York Gov. George Pataki.

Compared to the language we hear now on TV and in rap music, etc., that conviction was a joke anyway. Bruce, who was brilliant and tormented, sounds like Mary Poppins now.

The show comes to us from Los Angeles, where maybe theater audiences are a little less discerning than they might be here.

Although Jason Fisher does a good impersonation of Bruce, the chosen monologues are not consistent. It's only when Fisher talks about the obscenity laws Bruce was charged with violating that the one-man show really takes off. I thought the first half was encumbered by too many minute and trivial topical references to the late '50s and early '60s.

Judi Dench: 'Today' Show Should Be So Lucky

I guess word has gotten out that Dame Judi Dench was turned down by several talk shows, including the "Today" show, as a potential guest. The Oscar and Tony winner was considered too old for their audiences.

Dame Judi, of course, is nominated for the Oscar again for her phenomenal work in "Mrs. Henderson Presents." She won for "Shakespeare in Love" and was nominated for "Mrs. Brown" and for "Iris."

There's no question that the people who turned her down are jerks.

I've conducted numerous interviews with Dame Judi over the last few years, and she is never anything but bright, brilliant and full of fun. She's certainly no fuddy-duddy.

She also has lots of amazing stories about the people she's worked with, from Daniel Day-Lewis walking off the stage of a London play mid-show to Pierce Brosnan and company, with whom she's made several James Bond movies.

I have no doubt that the people who issued these subtle rejections were children, or assistant producers under the age of 30 who would rather hear Lindsay Lohan talk about her car crashes.

This reminds me of the Grammy night a few years ago when, backstage, MTV refused to interview Simon & Garfunkel after their triumphant opening number on the show because they were too old.

The artist MTV did interview, I am sure, is no longer around. Paul and Artie, however, have just made millions on the road.

It's hard to believe that between Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Katie Couric, none of them thought Judi Dench would be a cool guest.

Certainly Diane Sawyer is more sensible than that. I hope she picks up the phone and interviews Dame Judi from London, live, ASAP.

Of course, the irony will be if Judi wins the Oscar and gives none of these losers an interview at all.