Hope They Have a Big Enough Tour Bus


He has already made the unprecedented leap from record company CEO to best-selling artist. This week, rapper Puff Daddy, a.k.a. Bad Boy Entertainment CEO Sean “Puffy” Combs, steps into still another role: concert headliner. The opening seven-week leg of his Puff Daddy & the Family tour kicks off Friday in Albany, N.Y., and early box-office reports are encouraging. Though rap has yet to establish itself as a force in the concert business despite huge record sales in the ‘90s, Puff Daddy & Co. are showing signs that they might be able to break through. The multi-act bill--also featuring Busta Rhymes, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Usher, 112, Mase, Lil’ Cease, the LOX, the Firm, Jay-Z and Kid Capri--has sparked wide interest among concert-goers, according to agent Phil Casey of ICM, who booked the tour. Casey says 17 of the 23 shows that have gone on sale have sold out--including two at New York’s Madison Square Garden--or are projected to sell out. (The tour will bypass Southern California on this leg, but might return after it resumes early next year after four weeks in Europe, Casey says.) “He’s a marketing genius,” Casey says of Combs, whose debut album, “No Way Out,” has sold nearly 2.5 million copies since its midsummer release. “He’s put together a very appealing package.” In addition to sparking sales of his own album, Combs hopes the tour will serve as a launching pad for Mase, his latest protege. The debut album from the 20-year-old rapper, titled “Harlem World,” is expected to make a splashy entrance on the sales charts Wednesday when last week’s sales figures are reported by SoundScan.

Two Competing Studios Work the Bugs Out

Hollywood studios are usually fierce competitors, whether it’s battling for box office, taking part in bidding wars for hot scripts, wooing A-list actors to their pricey projects or competing for Oscars. But when the $110-million sci-fi film “Starship Troopers” opens Friday in more than 2,000 theaters, executives at two rival studios will be nervously watching the ticket sales and rooting for each other. The reason? In a rare move designed to share the risks of releasing a big-budget film, TriStar Pictures and Touchstone Pictures have entered a 50-50 co-financing arrangement in which the box-office grosses are divided equally by each studio. The deal calls for TriStar, a unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment, to release the film domestically while Touchstone, a Walt Disney Co. banner, will distribute the film in foreign markets. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the film is based on a Robert A. Heinlein novel about a planet of giant bugs that have the power to redirect asteroids toward Earth. The cooperation between TriStar and Touchstone went beyond money. Each studio shared creative input and information about such things as the trailers, one-sheet posters and television spots. “It was really a thing where anything we did they would have access to and vice versa,” a TriStar spokesman said. On Tuesday, TriStar will host the premiere of the co-production in Westwood and then hold a sci-fi-themed party at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica.

Bringing New Meaning to the Dance Mix

If you thought the Joffrey Ballet’s “Billboards” represented the only ballet to music by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, update your database. Mayte, the composer’s wife (former Cairo belly dancer and one-time member of the Wiesbaden State Theater ballet in Germany, Mayte Janelle Garcia), formed a new concert dance ensemble less than a month ago and brings it to the Wiltern Theatre on Friday. It’s part of a pilot project for her NPG (New Power Generation) Dance Company, an eclectic, hand-picked 21-member group based just outside Minneapolis in the Paisley Park studios. Titled “Around the World in a Day,” the performance alternates Arabic and Brazilian dance with classical ballet and commercial hip-hop. Busy choreographing and running the company, Mayte, a veteran TAFKAP tour performer, says she won’t be dancing this time around. But she’s recruited Desmond Richardson, formerly of the Alvin Ailey company and the star last season of American Ballet Theatre’s new, full-length “Othello,” as an NPG guest artist. Richardson will dance and co-choreograph (with Dwight Rhoden, another Ailey alum) the Act 2 “Kamasutra” ballet, set to music that Formerly composed for his and Mayte’s wedding in 1996. Act 1 uses earlier (Prince-era) recordings and Act 3 selections from the “Emancipation” album. “I went after all the people I wanted to work with,” Mayte says, “and I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.”


--Compiled by Times Staff Writers and Contributors