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Pilot John Travolta is forced to make an emergency landing

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CLOSE CALL John Travolta had to make an emergency landing in Boston on Sunday afternoon when one of the engines on his Boeing 707 shut down after overheating. Travolta, who was flying with seven friends, was headed from Los Angeles to his home near Bangor, Maine. He reportedly left on another plane quickly after his 3:30 impromptu Beantown stop, probably because he didn’t want his Maine neighbors to worry if he was late for that day’s deafening flyover.

WATCH IT! If you were watching the MTV Video Music Awards last Thursday, you sure as hell weren’t alone. The gala presentation received the best ratings ever for a cable entertainment program, with 11.9 million viewers tuning in to watch L’il Kim’s free-floating left breast and Kid Rock’s whiter-than-white pecs.

GUEST SPOT William H. Macy (“Fargo”) will join his wife, Felicity Huffman, on ”Sports Night” next season, with a recurring role as a network ratings executive that will likely rank an 8 on the ”Macy weaselly character” scale.

RECOVERING Martin Lawrence has been released from the hospital and is now recuperating at his L.A. home after his bout with heat stroke. He’s hoping to attend tonight’s premiere of ”Blue Streak,” but his publicist says ”right now we’re just concerned about his getting better.” If he does want to go, for God’s sake get him a limo with air conditioning.

BOYCOTT To protest the under-representation of minorities in prime-time programming, the NAACP is planning a boycott of one of the network’s November sweeps shows. Which network it targets will be decided after a tabulation of who has the worst record of diverse employment. The organization says that it hopes that by urging its members not to tune in, it can affect one network’s ratings enough to spur execs into changing their narrow-hiring ways.

MAKING THE CUT Only the best of the best can compete in Olympic events — unless you’re an Oscar winner, in which case you can just show up. Even though Geena Davis was eliminated in trials to join the U.S. archery team (ranking 29th), she has been invited to compete as a wildcard entry in the Sydney International Golden Arrow tournament, which is a test game for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Oh, and keep an eye out for Anna Paquin on the parallel bars later this year.

SCARE TACTICS An airport in Gloucestershire, England, has been using tapes of Tina Turner to scare birds off its runway, according to the London Times. ”We used to broadcast tapes with birds’ distress sounds, but we found they don’t work very well,” says the airport chief fire officer. ‘What the birds really hate is Tina Turner.” Hey, if they want to get people off the runway, nothing does the trick like Puff Daddy’s ”Forever.”

REEL DEAL Director Taylor Hackford (”Devil’s Advocate”) is taking on ”Proof of Life,” about a hostage negotiator who falls in love with the wife of the man he’s trying to free. Man, sitting in a dank cell with a sack over your head and a gun pointed at you is a helluva place to get a ”Dear John” letter.

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