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All aboard, Jay!

In the scrap between Jay Leno and Amtrak, the passenger railroad is proving that money talks. Fed up with Leno's late-night cracks about Amtrak's train wrecks, the railroad recently yanked $2-million of advertising from Leno's employer, NBC-TV. Now The Tonight Show has "tentatively agreed" to hop aboard one of Amtrak's passenger trains, Amtrak president Thomas Downs said Wednesday, according to Bloomberg Business News. Presumably, the free publicity from Leno's jaunt would ease the bad feelings. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said the Leno trip is "just one approach" to healing the rift. "We'd like to be back on NBC," he said. Officials at the network couldn't be reached to comment today.

Madonna caught in political fray

Madonna _ yes, that Madonna _ sent a blunt message Wednesday to California Gov. Pete Wilson, who the day before had chided his Democratic opponent by saying Kathleen Brown was as hard to find among crime fighters as "a nun at a Madonna concert . . . even harder to find than Madonna at a nunnery." The singer fired back through her publicist: "It would be foolish of me to respond to a statement made by a fool." Wilson campaign spokesman Dan Schnur said the governor did not intend to offend either Madonna or nuns. But the singer may have the last laugh: She is a registered California voter.

Arts groups up for endowments

Several bay area arts organizations are eligible for state endowments of $240,000 in 1994-95. They have to raise $360,000 to match the grants. Since 1985, 32 arts groups have received at least one matching share; 15 groups have received multiple shares. The state's $11,525,000 has been matched by $17,280,000. Grants are issued by the Department of State through the Division of Cultural Affairs. Here are the bay area groups eligible for the latest endowments: Pinellas: Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, Belleair; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. Hillsborough: Florida Orchestra, Tampa; Florida Endowment Fund for Higher Education, Tampa.