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Originally published October 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 22, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Derrick Watkins is all about the etiquette

While most children were enjoying their summer days playing in the sunshine, Derrick Watkins — aka Fonzworth Bentley — spent...

For The Associated Press

NEW YORK — While most children were enjoying their summer days playing in the sunshine, Derrick Watkins — aka Fonzworth Bentley — spent his free moments perfecting his etiquette.

Those endless lessons of the dos and don'ts of fine dining and protocol eventually laid the groundwork for this 33-year-old's claim to fame, as Diddy's umbrella-carrying assistant. He was constantly by his side at parties and videos — so much so that he became a celebrity himself. Now Bentley talks about his new book, "Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence and Style to Get Ahead."

Q: So were you targeting the younger generation with this book?

A: No, because etiquette is like a universal thing, and the book is really for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in all social situations. There's stuff in there for folks who need to polish up on certain things, like the proper way to introduce somebody, not everybody knows that. Like you're supposed to introduce the most senior person first. And it may not seem like such a big deal 'cause things are so casual now, but people notice.

Q: Were you always into etiquette as a child?

A: Oh, no. The reason why I went to my first etiquette class was [because] when we would eat, I would always take my left hand and push my food on my fork and my mom was like, "If you keep doing that, you're going to etiquette class this summer." And sure enough, there I was.

Q: So how did you first catch Sean "Diddy" Combs' attention years later in New York?

A: Well, I was working at Polo at the time, so if I ever wanted to go out, I would always be dressed in a suit. And at that time, culturally in hip-hop, this was the beginning of the jerseys, and the only people in suits were the Wall Street guys in their navy suit and yellow tie or their gray suit and red tie. And here I am in a chocolate brown Ralph Lauren purple label three-piece ... I really stood out. I remember I would walk up to Sean, and I would look at him, he would look at me, and I would say, "You want to do this, but you can't do this" and walk away! I did it to the point that it became a joke.

Q: How did you handle all the criticism of being his "manservant"?

A: That's actually my epilogue, "Dealing With Haters." 'Cause the reality is, once you get your swagger tight, the haters will come.

You can't begin to imagine how my parents, family and friends felt when they read all those things about me, but they knew me and they knew what my goal was. And while people were hating on me, I was traveling with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore — two of "Charlie's Angels"! What?!

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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