ABOARD P. DIDDY'S PLANE - At first glance, it appears presidential: A private jet bound for swing states days before the election. A campaign staff. Hungry media. An omnipresent slogan, "Vote or Die."
But there's no candidate -- just Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in all his hip-hop, hype-loving glory, putting in work for his nonpartisan organization Citizen Change.
The mastermind behind those "Vote or Die!" T-shirts is flying from New York to Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Miami on a three-day tour to inform young people and minorities that voting is important and, well, "sexy."
The Associated Press hitched a ride on Combs' jet -- nicknamed Air Force Change -- for the Milwaukee and Detroit legs of the tour. Here's what went down:
8:46 a.m.: R&B star Mary J. Blige, who'll be speaking alongside Combs, arrives at the airport flashing a hip-hop meets Jackie Onassis look with big sunglasses, a black-and-white petticoat and headband pulling back her long locks. Combs is nowhere to be seen.
9:18 a.m.: Boarding begins. The 52-seat rented jet is one big first-class section, more Hugh Hefner's Big Bunny than President Bush's Air Force One. There are comfy burgundy leather seats with brass accouterments, but the personal ashtrays on each armrest have been welded shut. Red, white and blue flags (no stars, just stripes) and Citizen Change posters add a patriotic touch.
10:08 a.m.: Combs arrives with a pillow and smaller-than-expected entourage, which includes burly bodyguards and a petite Maltese named Sophie. The dog resides in its own Louis Vuitton bag.
10:18 a.m.: Combs, who started Citizen Change earlier this year, strolls through the plane and greets everyone. He's sporting a "Vote or Die!" T-shirt, of course, beneath a denim ensemble by Sean John, his personal fashion label.
Does he prefer to go by P., Puffy, Daddy or Diddy?
"Hi, I'm Sean," he tells The Associated Press.
10:54 a.m.: Cruising altitude. The captain turns off the seat belt sign, although most of the members of the media have already begun prancing around the cabin. Combs is at the front of the plane, working on the speech he'll give in Milwaukee.
"We wanted to do an extreme makeover of the election process," Combs tells AP about the motivation behind the tour.
11:27 a.m. Puffy Air begins its descent into Milwaukee. "Entertainment Tonight" reporter Maria Menounos and her camera crew, who are also along for the ride, film an intro. The bubbly correspondent mentions something about Brad Pitt being at children's hospital in Los Angeles.
12 noon: Six-vehicle motorcade arrives including five SUVs ... and a party bus. Tom Gast, an admitted non-Puffy fan and the plane's pilot from New York to Milwaukee, eyes the media awaiting Combs' exit from the jet.
"Even though I'm voting for Bush, I still made the flight as smooth as possible," Gast reveals to the AP.
But sir, Combs is not endorsing either candidate. He says "Vote or Die!" isn't about the candidates, it's about the people.
"Kerry isn't smart enough," Combs later tells AP. "Instead of throwing a football around, he should take his butt into the inner-city and see how a young kid is going to school. And you don't see Bush taking the time to go to BET or MTV. Nobody was talking to this community. I deal with them every day."
12:29 p.m.: Combs and the motorcade arrive at the downtown Milwaukee Area Technical College. A group of fans have gathered outside temporary barricades, begging for Sean's John Hancock.
"I love his music," an autographless Sarah Vershowske, 18, says of Combs, who turns 35 on Nov. 4. "And he's hot."
P. Diddy Launches Political Party Plane
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