Fightin’ words

Newsmakers Feuds

Fightin' words

Steve Jobs; Jon Stewart; TTC; Officer Bubbles; Taylor Momsen | Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getstock; Robert Galbraith/Reuters; Leigh Vogel/Danny Martindale/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Jason Wieler

Conan vs. Leno
The Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno feud began in earnest on Jan. 7, with NBC’s announcement that it intended to give Leno an 11:35 p.m. show and move O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. The world gaped at what followed: O’Brien’s public rejection of the deal, his prolonged Viking-funeral farewell from Tonight, the tag-team mockery of Leno by late-night rivals Letterman and Kimmel, O’Brien’s exile from TV, his return, and, inevitably, a book (Bill Carter’s The War for Late Night) about the whole fracas.

Steve Jobs vs. Jim Balsillie
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie tussled over the future of mobile devices under the looming shadow of Google’s Android operating system. Jobs boasted that the iPhone was beating RIM’s BlackBerry and declared RIM’s PlayBook tablet “DOA.” Balsillie countered with a volley aimed at Apple’s most notorious weakness: “We know that while Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of websites that use Flash.”

M.I.A. vs. Lynn Hirschberg
Hirschberg’s New York Times Magazine profile of rapper-designer Maya “M.I.A.” Arulpragasam depicted the Tamil refugee-chic star as a spoiled, politically naive flibbertigibbet. M.I.A. responded by posting Hirschberg’s cellphone number to social network site Twitter and, later, releasing a single with lyrics that refer to journalists as “thick as s–t”. (The nerve!) In another era, Hirschberg’s disclosure that M.I.A. is wholly dependent on others to make records and possesses “no basic musical craft” might have been almost as controversial as her fondness for truffle fries.

Officer Bubbles vs. YouTube
Toronto police Const. Adam Josephs, world-famous as “Officer Bubbles” after his threats to arrest a bubble-blowing G20 protester hit YouTube, sued the video site and several anonymous subscribers for posting parody cartoons and comments that prolonged his unwilling stardom. Bubbles discovered what nerds call the “Streisand effect” (coined when the singer tried to suppress photos of a palatial seaside home and succeeded only in attracting attention to it); the cartoons reappeared, along with new blasts of anonymous vilification, as quickly as YouTube could remove them.

Porter vs. Air Canada
Toronto-based carrier Porter Airlines’ legal and commercial struggles with Air Canada took a twist when Porter CEO Robert Deluce sued the larger company for revoking free lifetime first-class passes bestowed upon him and his wife in 1986, when Deluce’s family sold Air Canada its interests in Air Ontario and Austin Airways. Air Canada reserved comment, but a spokesman wisecracked that “it is completely understandable why Mr. Deluce would prefer to fly Air Canada . . . wouldn’t you?” (With free tickets, sure!)

L.A. Dodgers vs. Jamie McCourt
The L.A. Dodgers endured a difficult year after firing their CEO, Jamie McCourt, wife of team owner Frank McCourt (not the author). The pair are awaiting a final judgment in their divorce; Mr. McCourt has a post-nuptial agreement giving him sole possession of the club, but the missus says it’s invalid. Frank promised fans that domestic strife wouldn’t affect team fortunes, but the Dodgers slashed payroll and plodded to fourth in their division.

Sean Penn vs. Wyclef Jean
When musician Wyclef Jean announced plans to run for the presidency of his native Haiti, actor Sean Penn reacted with skepticism. “I don’t know the man,” said Penn, adding that the reason he didn’t know Jean was that the singer had mostly been absent from the country while Penn helped lead rebuilding efforts. Jean’s initial reaction was muted, but after the Haitian electoral commission ruled him ineligible, the gloves really came off—he told an N.Y.C. concert audience, “Maybe [Penn] ain’t see me in Haiti because he was too busy sniffing cocaine.”

Glenn Beck vs. Jon Stewart
Fox News host Glenn Beck paid the price of fame as he became the subject of a singular, near-obsessive satirical attack by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. Stewart, normally content to sit behind a desk and mug for the camera, stepped out several times to execute prolonged imitations of Beck’s unique, emotion-fraught style of political chalk talk. Beck’s reactions remained polite; he even called the Comedy Central host “very funny.” But Stewart enjoyed the last laugh when his televised Rally to Restore Sanity at Washington’s National Mall, designed to parody Beck’s Restoring Honor live event, drew an estimated 215,000 attendees and pushed the city’s subway ridership to an all-time Saturday record.

Miley Cyrus vs. Taylor Momsen
Teen popsters Miley Cyrus and Taylor Momsen went from TV rivals to enemies when Momsen told an interviewer, “I’m a rocker, she’s a pop star,” and accused Cyrus of purveying “Disney bubblegum s–t.” Cyrus was said to be mortified, and the pair continued to serve as a study in fashion contrasts, or a projection of the American libido. Dubiously wholesome Cyrus seemed to wear less each week on stage, while Momsen’s shredded-lingerie outfits and goth makeup became increasingly cartoonish. Everybody wins.

Florence vs. Italy
The city of Florence and the Italian Republic squabbled over Michelangelo’s David. The Italian culture ministry, seeking to retain gallery revenues derived from the statue, commissioned a legal inquiry into its ownership and concluded that it was ceded to the newly unified nation in 1877. Florence’s city council contends that it is the successor of independent Florence, which commissioned the work. They add pointedly that in its original outdoor setting, the marble warrior’s defiant gaze was consciously turned toward Rome.

TTC vs. its customers
The Toronto Transit Commission’s cold war with its customers turned hot when TTC ticket collector George Robitaille was photographed dozing in his booth. Transit union boss Bob Kinnear accused a tittering public of callousness, arguing that Robitaille might have been “unconscious as a result of some medical problem.” More documentation of naps and long breaks by TTC staff followed, as did a short-lived Facebook counterattack by employees, who created a page for photos of riders behaving badly.

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