But the fact is that Puffy has always had a somewhat different style. Russell, for example, always stayed far away from the East Coast-West Coast wars, while Puffy may have gotten some heat off his proximity to that violence. "A lot of people in the industry are saying Puffy did this beating on purpose to get his ghetto credibility back," says an executive at Sony. "He did it to have the kids on the street respect him again -- no one cares about the Bad Boy insignia anymore. White kids are only gonna buy what black kids buy, and Puffy thinks that by doing this he'll win them back."
"I think Puffy's happiness," Andre told me that night at Patsy's, "is driven by a different level of challenge than Russell or myself. I think both myself and Russell have a bigger appreciation at this point for good friends, good food. . . . Like, you know? We've achieved."
People say that Russell, once a "wild man," has changed recently, due in large part to his marriage to Kimora Lee. "She's his love child. She's Mrs. Oneworld," Andre says.
This year, Russell put out a Phat Farm shirt with Kimora Lee's face on it. There are a hundred Kimoras looking at you: Kimora looking up seductively. Kimora smiling intimately, as in a personal snapshot you would carry. Kimora's long, long leg swinging forward, toe pointed.
"It looks beautiful with your pictures all over it," Russell's telling her in his car one night. "The only problem with it is you get in a hot room and it starts sticking to you."
"It holds funk," Kimora agrees.
"But those shirts are hot, they're selling out," says Russell.
Kimora fits in nicely with his genius for synergy, so similar to his friend Martha Stewart's ("I think we have a lot in common that way," Stewart says). Kimora is the host of Russell Simmons's Oneworld Music Beat, the concept of which was a hip-hop Entertainment Tonight. "Isn't she great? She's so natural," Russell says. He is Charles Foster Kane-like in his devotion, but Kimora is fun to watch. She interviews rappers and other entertainers while smiling her dazzling smile and wearing beautiful gowns, in between promos for Oneworld magazine and Phat Farm.
Russell saw Kimora up on a runway in a Mary McFadden show when she was just 17. "Everyone said stay away from him," Kimora says. "We didn't do anything until I was 18," she adds demurely.
Russell had a well-publicized penchant for models and had dated so many that, he says, "that shit was getting dull." He had to get Kimora's agent to talk her mother into letting him take her out.
"He sent me flowers -- jungles of flowers," says Kimora.
"Trees, a miniature forest. Oh, tell about the afternoon you flew to Greece just to have lunch," teases Andre.
"I went to every show she was in," says Russell, unapologetic and uncharacteristically poetic. "My ghetto sophisticate girl for Chanel."
"She's straight-up ghetto bitch," he says proudly. She's from St. Louis, Missouri. "Her mama works for the city government -- and her daddy's a pimp," Russell says.
He clarifies, proudly, "Her daddy was the first black U.S. marshal."
"My mother's a very straight Japanese woman," Kimora says. "And my grandmama called me, and she said" -- with a high-Japanese accent -- "'Kimora, at night, that rich man he come home and sleep with you? Only you?' And I said, 'Yes, Grammy,' and she said, 'Oh, very happy.' " Kimora claps her hands.