Star Wars Attack of the clowns
No feud quite beats a celebrity one. Michael White steps into the boxing ring for the top-billing bust-ups in Tinseltown
In an age when every glitzy event is stage managed so precisely that it robs it of any colour, it's refreshing to find celebrities willing to engage in a good old-fashioned bitch fight.
And celebrity feuds are certainly in vogue right now.
Madonna's recent spat with Elton John and his civil partner David Furnish following the recent Golden Globes is a gleefully catty prime example.
David wasn't pleased when Madge beat Elton to the award for Best Song -- more of that anon -- but the real battle started on the red carpet.
On the way into the ceremony, Elton told an interviewer that Madonna had "no f**king chance" of winning, while David predicted that either his partner or Mary J Blige (nominated for a tune from 'The Help') would win.
When Madonna heard about the couple's comments, she asked: "Was he [Elton] wearing a dress?" before adding, "May the best man win", one paper reported.
She was then named winner of the Best Song prize, and the TV cameras picked up Elton in the audience looking as if he'd just swallowed some rotten eggs.
But it turns out they were just sour grapes.
Writing later that evening on his Facebook page, David fumed: "Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit. Her acceptance speech was embarrassing in its narcissism."
Madge didn't seem too put out. "He's [Elton] known to get mad at me, [but] he'll win another award. I don't feel bad," she said blithely of the affair.
But bizarrely, David then extended the remit of the feud to include music producer William Orbit, who worked with Madonna on her 1998 album 'Ray of Light', as well as on her upcoming record 'MDNA'.
When William came to Madge's defence on David's Facebook feed, David turned on him by saying: "You are the biggest hypocrite of all.
"Madonna cast you into the pop wilderness after you produced the brilliant All Saints single for 'The Beach'. She has cut you adrift as she has with so many other talented collaborators in her career.
"Obviously, your bank balance means more to you than your artistic integrity."
William proved himself the classier guy by saying how surprised he was by the "rancour and hostility" on David's page, and urged everyone to "have a nice cup of tea and calm down. Save energy for the real injustices in this world".
David then tried to defuse the row by writing, "Wow! What a tempest in a teacup. My comments regarding the Golden Globes have been blown way out of proportion", adding that he thought Madonna to be a "great artist" and wished her well for the debut of her movie.
Alas, despite the frantic late-in-the-day back-pedalling, the rift between the two music heavyweights was fully re-activated for all to savour.
As those who have been following it will know, the Madonna-Elton John feud goes back, at least publicly, to 2004, when Elton slammed Madge for allegedly miming during a performance at the Q Music Awards, where she won the prize for best live act.
"Since when has lip-synching been live? Everyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay £75 to see them should be shot."
He continued: "That's me off her f**king Christmas card list, but do I give a toss? No."
Her Madgesty's publicist was quick to deny that charge, saying her paymaster always sang live, and furthermore didn't spend time "trashing other artists".
Madge and Elton's spat is just one of several celeb feuds that have been festering in the pop-culture sphere of late. And the web now serves as the cyber equivalent of the Western Front.
'X Factor' loser -- in every sense of the word -- Frankie Cocozza raised the ire of Wayne Rooney late last year when he mentioned the footballer's name on Twitter in a post carrying the topic hashtag '#CelebsThatLookLikeTheyStink'.
"I bet his pits are stinking, along with his breath," Frankie added, to which Wayne responded, "sorry, who are u again? Oh yeah, I remember ur the kid who was on x factor who couldn't sing".
Frankie, sensitive flower that he is, shot back at Wayne with, "That hurt", before adding, "Just got merked by Rooney, personally I think that's quite sick".
Suggestions as to what 'merked' means on a postcard please...
Hoping to get the last word -- successfully too, it seems, as Wayne never replied -- Frankie tweeted, "thank you for making my day, knew I'd hit a nerve. I don't like you at all. But bring home the goods this summer please".
Then, there's the most recent twist in the long-running rivalry between Lily Allen and Cheryl Cole.
Lily once labelled Cheryl's ex-husband Ashley "horrendous" -- hard to argue with that one, to be fair -- but when she said Cheryl's old bandmate Nicola Roberts was "the ugly one" of the group, Cheryl fought back, calling Lily a "chick with a d**k".
In an open letter, Lily replied: "Cheryl, if you're reading this, I may not be as pretty as you, but at least I write and sing my own songs without the aid of Auto-Tune.
"I must say, taking your clothes off, doing sexy dancing and marrying a rich footballer must be very gratifying, your mother must be so proud, stupid b**ch."
Last month, Lily couldn't resist the chance to get another dig in at the girlband, using the occasion of Sarah Harding's impending charges arising from a row with her boyfriend to tweet: "Wow. 40% of Girls Aloud will have been charged with assault."
Proving that she can fight celeb wars on two fronts, Lily also took issue with rocker Courtney Love, who had reportedly been dissing Lily because the younger singer had put exclusive dibs on a certain clothes designer for the Brit Awards, an event they both attended.
On Twitter, Lily called Courtney "a paranoid, drug-addled lunatic", adding that, "I don't pick on crazy old ladies".
The micro-blogging social networking site was also the battleground of choice for a row between glamour model Imogen Thomas -- she of the super-injunction controversy last year -- and fellow model Nicola McLean, wife of footballer Tommy Williams.
When Tommy reportedly approached Imogen at a showbiz launch to question her about things she had said about his wife, Imogen responded by writing online: "I can't believe I've just been threatened by Tom Williams (some supposed football player)! Talk about cornering a woman. Disgusting rat!!!!"
Nicola reacted immediately, tweeting: "I never get people like you. Happy to say it on twitter but when my husband asks for a reason you tweet it and say nish."
She proceeded to call Imogen "a marriage wrecker" and "a lying slag".
When Nicola then entered the 'Celebrity Big Brother' house last month, Imogen called her "a fake", adding that she "slags off every celeb then comes face 2 face and doesn't say anthin'! #strange".
This one could run and run.
Seniority and respect for one's elders doesn't seem to mean much either when it comes to star quarrels.
When it was announced two years ago that tween singer Hilary Duff was to star in a (thankfully since shelved) remake of the 1960s classic movie 'Bonnie & Clyde', the film's original star, Faye Dunaway, was not impressed, and is alleged to have -- reasonably -- said: "Couldn't they at least cast a real actress?"
Hilary, owing to the arrogance of youth and a Disney-sourced fortune, showed she wasn't going to take any guff from an Oscar winner who made such terrible, little-regarded films as 'Network' and 'Chinatown', by responding: "I think that my fans that are going to go see the movie don't even know who she is.
"I think it was a little unnecessary, but I might be mad if I looked like that now too."
The late Etta James has been eulogised over the past fortnight since her death at age 73, including this tribute from Beyoncé, who played Etta in the movie 'Cadillac Records': "This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime."
Very gracious of the Bootylicious one, considering that Etta wasn't too pleased with Beyoncé for singing her signature track, 'At Last', for Barack and Michelle Obama during the presidential inauguration in 2009.
"I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song, she gonna get her ass whupped," James said during a public event.
"I can't stand Beyoncé. She has no business up there, singing up there on a big ol' president day, gonna be singing my song that I've been singing forever."
She didn't seem too keen on Obama either, referring to him as "your President, the one with the big ears, he ain't my President".
The next day, Etta tried to neutralise the attacks by saying: "I didn't really mean anything. Even as a little child, I've always had that comedian kind of attitude. That's probably what went into it."
As for Obama, Etta said: "[I] always thought he was handsome and he was cool. He's got other stuff [to worry about] besides Etta James."
It's not just the girls at it either. Sean Penn took issue with singer Wyclef Jean's short-lived plans to run for president of Haiti in a 2010 online article.
The actor -- never shy to don the cloak of sanctimony -- criticised Wyclef for being absent after the catastrophic earthquake in the singer's home country.
"None among us felt or expressed anger toward it, but rather a universal sadness for his silence, as he is America's most admired cultural link to Haiti," Sean said.
Wyclef's response? "I got a message for Sean Penn: Maybe he ain't seen me in Haiti because he was too busy sniffing cocaine," he quipped while in the middle of a concert performance.
Lastly, 'Transformers' actor Shia LaBeouf and former 'Malcolm in the Middle' child star Frankie Muniz have been at one another's throats for years now.
In the course of a radio discussion about his box-office success, Shia told the host: "While that's flattering as hell, you could have put Frankie Muniz into any of the movies I've been in and those movies still would've still been No 1."
An irked Muniz then replied -- where else? -- via Twitter. "Dear Shia Labeouf," he wrote, "It's getting creepy the fact that you can't stop talking about me. It's been 12 years now. I don't know you. Thanks."
As the kids would say on Twitter: ROFL. *
* To the uninitiated, that's Roll On The Floor Laughing.