P. Diddy: 'Pray for Me'  | Quentin and Uma  | Anatole Broyard

P. Diddy: 'Pray for Me'

Sean "P. Diddy/Puff Daddy" Combs is running the New York City marathon today. But last night at a private dinner for about 300 people, he told the assembled guests: "Pray for me. I mean it."

Combs's guests included his mother, Janice Combs, business partner Andre Harrell, young actresses Jordana Brewster (search), with her much younger sister Isabella; and Tara Reid, with her boyfriend, Chris Heinz, son of Teresa Heinz and stepson of Presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry (search).

Wyclef Jean (search), with his band featuring Jerry Wonder and his break dancing cousins, provided the entertainment free of charge.

They were all there to help Combs raise money for New York City public schools and his children's charity, Daddy's House. You can read more about the charity at www.diddyrunsthecity.com.

Combs has been training for weeks to run the marathon even though he has no previous experience as a long distance runner and is sporting an easily injured knee. Still, one of the professional runners he flew in from the west coast to pace him told me last night at dinner, "He'll finish in three hours and fifteen minutes."

Of course it helped that there was a significant amount of spaghetti and chocolate cake for dinner last night. Those of who weren't running focused instead on lamb chops and vegetables.

But for once Combs himself was not the center of attention. That honor went to his butler or manservant, named Farnsworth Bentley, who wears suspenders and is clearly American. Bentley was very much in the spotlight last night, helping auction off diamond-encrusted watches made by Jacob the Jeweler, who was also present.

At the end of the night, after Combs had retired, "I have to go to bed but I want to stay here!" he told his cheering fans. Bentley thanked himself from the stage. He then continued the auction, pointing at the pair of multi-colored watches on each of his wrists. "I like pink myself," he said, indicating one.

But that was while Janice Combs -- in her blonde wig -- was doing a version of the Catwoman dance on stage while Wyclef led the band through a rocking Neal Hefti channeled riff on "Johnny B. Goode." (Bentley obviously didn't approve. He took the mike and said, "This is Wyclef Jean. He's playing rock and roll. Don't blame me.")

But P. Diddy was gone by then, attired in white Nike workout clothes, presumably on his way home to get ready for the big race. If you can, try and catch the one hour video he made about training for MTV that began airing last night. It happens to be quite witty and well done, with Diddy poking fun at himself and this whole notion. I particularly liked the little fat kid who jogs along beside him during a practice, as well as the assistant who says, when Combs succumbs to a piece of fried chicken, "Diddy eats the city."

Quentin: Uma Reminds Him of Trigger

Now, as for Keanu: He appeared yesterday at the Motion Picture Club luncheon for theatre bookers. He was on his way from Los Angeles to Sydney to launch "Revolutions." As the recipient of the MPC's Male Star of the Year, Keanu gave a gracious and funny speech after being introduced by Warner Bros.' Jeff Robinov.

"He saved my life [and] job with the Matrix trilogy," Robinov joked. "He's viciously cool ... and not a half-bad bass player. He bought Harley-Davidsons for the whole stunt team."

Reeves, sporting a short hair cut and looking quite trim and tall, was also entertaining.

"I wanted to be an actor when I was 15," he said. "I saw 78 films in one year. I had no life, but I had a dream life. ... To be a creative artist in show business ... rocks," he said. "When I'm speaking even to accountants, something in the business touches us."

Later, at the same luncheon, Quentin Tarantino said he noticed Uma Thurman's resemblance to Trigger. It was kind of a joke, and it didn't quite go over, but Tarantino worked his way out of it after informing the audience that in Japanese, "Uma" means horse.

"The Japanese consider this an insult, so they call her Yuma," he told us. "But the animal she is most like is a lion, in loyalty, pride and ferocity. You will see in 'Kill Bill: Vol. 2' that her path is not a kill-crazy rampage, but the ferocity of a mother being reunited with her child."

Thurman responded by saying: "I realized [recently] to my horror that I've given 17 years, half my life almost, to making movies."

"Kill Bill: Vol. 2," by the way is, "40 percent" finished, Tarantino told me later before jetting off to Paris to do publicity. "There's way more character in it, and a lot more of my dialogue."

Real-Life Inspiration for 'Human Stain'

I knew Anatole Broyard pretty well, or so I thought.

Anatole was one of two daily book reviewers for the New York Times when I met him 1983. A year later he moved over to the editorial side of the Times Book Review. This was during a period when I was a book publicist, so our paths crossed often and we socialized.

He was fun, smart and legendary — not only for his literary accomplishments, but also as quite the ladies' man throughout the book world.

Of course, I had no idea he was black. Neither, apparently, did his family or close friends. In 1996, six years after his death, Anatole was "outed" by the distinguished writer Henry Louis Gates Jr., himself African-American, in The New Yorker.

Gates' essay, "The Passing of Anatole Broyard" is now included in his Vintage book, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man." It's not easy to find — I bought it at Revolution Books in the Flatiron District — but I'm sure you can get it on the Internet. It's worth it for all the essays, not just the Broyard.

In 2000, four years after the Gates piece, Philip Roth published his novel "The Human Stain." He said (or his publicist said) that it was inspired by the infamous stain left by Bill Clinton on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. But the real story in "The Human Stain" is about a professor named Coleman Silk, played by Anthony Hopkins, who has passed for white all his life, rejected his family and his heritage, lied to everyone including himself.

This is obviously Anatole in Roth's re-figuring. Something in Roth's head must have clicked: Clinton and Broyard, two ladies' men who compartmentalized their sexual adventures, denying hard, cold facts even when they were set before them. They are not unlike a lot of Roth's protagonists in other books, if not Roth himself.

Today, the film version of "The Human Stain" finally opens around the country. It was supposed to open three weeks ago, but Miramax said it felt the move would help the film's Oscar chances. They're probably right.

Nicole Kidman is luminous and edgy in her role as Faunia, the local woman with a questionable past with whom Coleman Silk falls in love. Wentworth Miller, the 31-year-old newcomer who plays young Coleman, makes a very strong impression, especially since it turns out he's of a mixed-race background himself.

Miller's scene with Anna Deveare Smith, who plays his mother, in which Coleman reveals to her that he's marrying a white girl and renouncing all traces of his life, should get them each Oscar nominations.

Not everyone who's seen "The Human Stain" have been definite in their appreciation of it. Some have loved it. Others, I think, have been puzzled by its ambiguous ending.

"There are a lot of plot holes," someone said to me last week. I disagree, but maybe that's because if you've read the Roth book or the Gates piece, you know the story.

Very few people knew Broyard's real story. Even his children were unaware of it until after his death, when they finally met his sister. That doesn't make for a tidy Hollywood ending.

(Gates writes that two of the people Broyard did tell were the (late) writer Harold Brodkey and his wife, Ellen Schwamm. I had to laugh. Maybe Anatole saw a kindred spirit. For many years before I knew him, Broyard suffered from writer's block and never turned in the purported novel he was working on. In my generation, Brodkey was equally infamous for a long awaited, unpublished novel. He eventually published "Stories in an Almost Classical Mode," his second book in 30 years, in 1988. He died in 1996.)

Hopkins is an odd choice to play Coleman Silk. He certainly looks nothing like Broyard. F. Murray Abraham would have been a more natural choice. Hopkins is encumbered by his Welsh accent, which makes no sense at all, especially when Silk announces that he's from East Orange, New Jersey.

But Hopkins brings the right intelligence to the role, and there's a shiftiness in his eyes that suggests layers and layers of duplicity which no one — not even Ed Harris' inquisitive Lester Farely — will ever peel back. Director Robert Benton ("Places in the Heart," "Kramer vs. Kramer") captures all that perfectly.

Kidman, of course, is spectacular. The whole time I was watching her I was thinking: "How is it possible she went from Mrs. Tom Cruise, a sort-of not-very-interesting actress, to this dynamo who's now starred in 'Moulin Rouge!,' 'The Others,' 'The Hours,' 'The Human Stain,' 'Dogville' and the forthcoming 'Cold Mountain' in three years?"

No other actress accesses pain and despair so well. She's almost too good at it. And in "The Human Stain" she's added toughness to her list of traits.

Broyard, like Coleman Silk, would be mortified to see his story come to the big screen. But we never got to ask Anatole about being black. Similarly, Coleman Silk never turns to the audience and says, "Aha! This is why I did it!"

This may be frustrating to some. Movies are supposed to end on exclamation points, not three little dots. But that's kind of the point of "The Human Stain." As with the Anatole Broyard's life story, there is no resolution. There are only lots of provocative questions without answers, and Benton poses them rather brilliantly.