September 02, 2004 06:00 AM

Tennis star Andy Roddick is a busy man lately, between his current battle at the U.S. Open and his recent efforts at the Olympics (he didn’t bring home a medal) – and did he even have time to celebrate his 22nd birthday on Monday? But in spite of it all, Roddick took a few minutes to chat with us at the recent Taste of Tennis charity event at the W New York Hotel, where he played doubles in the kitchen, making gumbo with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
Tell us about the Olympics. Which other athletes did you hang out with?
“It was awesome. I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, but the whole experience just meeting all the other athletes – I stayed in the village with Mardy Fish, who got the silver medal. It was like a college dorm, with people that can run the 100-meter in under 10 seconds. It was pretty cool.”
Were you recognized much over there?
“Yeah, tennis is one of the sports that’s visible year-round as opposed to just at the Olympics, so I was probably more recognizable than some of the athletes. But they didn’t trip – they’re my peers, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Did you learn any Greek?
” ‘Efharisto poly’ is thank you.”

Theme Song
Countless young girls now look up to U.S. gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Carly Patterson, no doubt – but what inspired the 16-year-old athlete in her quest for the all-around title in Athens? “I listened to the Ashlee Simpson CD all the time,” Patterson told us at the MTV Video Music Awards last weekend, where she presented the viewers’ choice Moonman. “Her music definitely pumped me up before my meet.” Patterson even got to meet her musical muse: Her mother saw Simpson earlier in the week, stopped her, introduced herself and asked the singer to pose for a picture. Simpson happily obliged, and congratulated Carly on her Olympic victory.

Star Treatment
• Lucky attendees at Usher’s VMA afterparty at the Shore Club Sunday night (including Bruce Willis, Owen Wilson, Lil’ Kim, Paris Hilton, Marlon Wayans and Jimmy Fallon) got to take home gift bags worth $1,500, loaded with more than $300 worth of Kiehls products; Armani leather coasters and fragrances; Calvin Klein sunglasses; a Jade Jagger necklace for Garrard; a Shore Club canvas tote and beach towel; a LeSportsac tote; a Local 69 tank and boy shorts; Sassy Tootsies flip-flops; and, of course, an Usher CD.

• Forget the requisite mint on the pillow – when Gwen Stefani checked into the Miami Four Seasons Hotel for the VMAs, she got a “Make Your Own Mojito” amenity.

Party King
Of course, one of the most luxe VMA parties came the night before the ceremony, thrown by legendary host Sean "P Diddy" Combs at his $14.5 million, nine-bedroom, 12-bath mansion on Miami Beach’s exclusive Star Island. “It was beautiful affair, absolutely gorgeous,” says one of the 150 guests, who described the home as Bali style, with clean lines, lots of wood, rattan furniture, all-white fabrics and a beautiful pool. “It was intimate, and elegant.” One of the highlights, a spy tells us, was the dessert presentation, during which a model wearing only chocolate body paint and a leaf was carried out by four attendants and placed before Diddy’s table (and then guests sampled several types of Kron chocolates). Among the attendees: Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Paris Hilton, Busta Rhymes, Diana Ross, Lennox Lewis, Naomi Campbell, Vivica A. Fox and Owen Wilson.


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