Spears' appearance makes it a must-see show

The Baltimore Sun

MTV said yesterday that tabloid fixture and sometime pop singer Britney Spears will open Sunday's Video Music Awards with a performance of her new single, "Gimme More."

It will be her fourth VMA performance, following such memorable moments as her kiss with Madonna in 2003 and her entrance at the 2001 show with a python draped over her shoulders.

The show airs live at 9 p.m.

Mailer ailing

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer spent Labor Day weekend in a hospital with breathing difficulties and has been told not to travel for now, his editorial assistant said yesterday.

Mailer, 84, has adult onset asthma and was experiencing "labored" breathing, Dwayne Raymond Prickett said. He spent five days in a Boston hospital undergoing tests.

Prickett declined to give more information.

And in this corner

Kanye West and 50 Cent will appear on BET's 106 & Park on Tuesday, when their heavily anticipated albums - West's Graduation and 50 Cent's Curtis - hit the stores.

BET is treating the Tuesday-evening event like a top heavyweight fight, even borrowing Stuart Scott from ESPN to deliver a statistical breakdown of the two rappers. Both are set to perform, but whether they will engage in a rap battle remains to be seen.

Left out of the fun is country star Kenny Chesney, whose new album is also being released Tuesday. The country star has put both rappers on notice that he may emerge as the ultimate victor when the week's sales tally is released.

Prize finalists

Long-standing favorite Ian McEwan faced a strong challenge from little-known New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones yesterday, as judges announced the finalists for the Man Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious award for fiction.

McEwan's On Chesil Beach is up against Jones' Mister Pip, as well as Nicola Barker's Darkmans, Anne Enright's The Gathering, Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Indra Sinha's Animal's People.

The winner of the $100,000 award will be announced Oct. 16.

Quick clicks

Emmy winner Marlo Thomas will join the cornucopia of new faces on Ugly Betty this fall, signing on for a guest role.

Actress Sherri Shepherd will join ABC's talk show The View next week, filling the final seat around the coffee table.

From wire reports

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