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The Beat

In her role as Erica Kane on All My Children , soap queen Susan Lucci has survived a grizzly bear attack, taken part in a helicopter prison break and been passed over for a daytime Emmy 18 times. (She finally won in 1999.) So shooting free throws should have been a cinch. But no. For an episode of AMC that will air on Sept. 14, Lucci (playing the host of a talk show within the show) threw pitches with the Yankees' Al Leiter and chatted up Giants running back Tiki Barber, all without incident. But when she toed the charity stripe with the Knicks' Allan Houston, she resembled a shorter, skinnier Shaq. "She wasn't making a very high percentage," says Houston (above, with Lucci), who revealed that he'd been a big General Hospital fan while in high school in Louisville. In Lucci's defense Houston added that proper free throw shooting "takes a long time to learn. And I don't think the heels she was wearing helped."

■ Middleweight boxing champ Jermain Taylor goes by the nickname Bad Intentions, but his meeting last week with Bill Clinton at the former president's Harlem office was all about good will. Taylor, a Little Rock native, gave the former Arkansas governor a boxing robe embroidered with PRESIDENT CLINTON and invited Clinton to his next bout. Clinton countered by offering to treat the champ to lunch and a private tour of his presidential library the next time the two are in Arkansas. Says Taylor, "He looked me in the eye and told me he was so proud of me, coming up from such a small town to such big things."

■ TO hasn't been the only megastar working on his receiving skills in Philly this summer. Mark Wahlberg has spent most of the past two weeks shooting Invincible at Franklin Field on the campus of Penn. In the film, based on a true story, Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, a bartender who earned a job as an Eagles wide receiver at an open tryout in 1976. The film's football supervisor, Mark Ellis, says the setting was "the closest thing you'll find to a real NFL camp. This was not some Hollywood training camp. There were no trailers, no special treatment." And no Hollywood egos. "[Wahlberg] is one of the most coachable guys I've seen," says Ellis, a former college football player who also worked on The Longest Yard remake. "He's a pit bull, but he also knows how to be a teammate. He barbecues for the guys every evening." The film also stars Greg Kinnear, who plays coach Dick Vermeil. Kinnear got one piece of advice from Darryl Hammond, an Arena Football Leaguer who is playing former Eagle Harold Carmichael. Says Hammond, "I just told him to work on his crying."

■ Texas Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight will star in ESPN's six-part reality series, Knight School, which will give 16 Tech students the chance to compete for a walk-on spot on the 2006--07 Red Raiders team. (The show will air in February.) "Reality TV is all about competition and drama," says ESPN spokesman Rob Tobias. "And if you want drama, we all know Bobby's the man." ... Haley Joel Osment, who played basketball in grade school before becoming a movie star in The Sixth Sense, has signed on to star in Home of the Giants. Osment, 17, will play an Indiana teen who idolizes his high school's flawed basketball star and gets drawn into a cheating scandal.... Those tingling with anticipation ever since Mike Tyson said that he was considering an offer to star in a porn movie with XXX queen Jenna Jameson can turn off their tinglers: Jameson's camp says no such offer was ever tendered.


The bronze bust is merely the best-known benefit of making it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is also the thrill of having a llama dress like you, as former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, one of four who entered the Hall this year, discovered at the preinduction parade in Canton.


Cheerleaders in Michigan helped police track down a hit-and-run suspect by turning his license plate number into a cheer.

They Said It


Long-range gunner recently acquired by the Heat from the Celtics, when asked why he shoots so many threes: "Because there are no fours."