Ever since Cain slew his brother Abel in the Bible, people have feuded, whether it is over money, love, or power. Competing for favor or avenging a betrayal is one of the most common and universal themes in music, literature, art. Here are 42 of the most bitter feuds and rivalries throughout history!
Feuds and Rivalries Facts
42. David Letterman & Oprah
In 1995, late night talk show host and funnyman David Letterman was invited to host the 67th Academy Awards. His routine went down as one of the worst in recent memory — he spent much of his airtime joking about introducing Oprah Winfrey to Uma Thurman, and each time he repeated, “Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah” the gag got less funny. Winfrey certainly wasn’t amused: she famously did not speak to him and boycotted appearing on his show, for 16 years. Winfrey returned to his show in 2005 and very classily claimed that she had no feud with him at all, but in 2013 the pair opened up to each other and buried the hatchet. Winfrey described an uncomfortable appearance on Letterman’s show decades before, and Letterman empathized and apologized.
41. East Coast Rap Vs. West Coast Rap
Music fans from the ‘80s and ‘90s will remember the rivalry between the East Coast hip-hop scene (which produced artists such as Biz Markee, The Beastie Boys, Salt-n-Pepa, and LL Cool J) and the West Coast scene (where Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Ice-T, and N.W.A. came from). Bad Boy Records, founded by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs in New York, competed with Death Row Records, based in LA and run by CEO Suge Knight, for record sales, while artists brawled and feuded at the Source Awards. When Death Row artist Tupac Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas, the crime was attributed to the rivalry. Six months later, Bad Boy artist The Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting in LA. Reverend Louis Farrakhan united the factions in a peace summit, a practice he continues today to use to advocate for peace.
40. Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis
Leading ladies of the silver screen Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were both at the top of the game, but sometimes fame and fortune can’t overcome pettiness. After Crawford took up with Bette Davis’s costar from the 1935 film Dangerous, who she reportedly had a crush on, the two stars engaged in a public feud, making no secret of their feelings towards one another.
The pair co-starred in the psychological thriller Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962—in which two rival sisters play devastating mind games with each other. Only Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, but Crawford got the last word. She called up all of the other nominees, offering to accept the Best Actress award on their behalf should they win. Winner Anne Bancroft couldn’t make it to the ceremony, so presenter Maximilian Schell presented Crawford with the award. After Crawford’s death in 1977, Davis apparently said of her, “You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!”
The pair’s strained relationship was turned into a miniseries this year on FX, appropriately titled Feud.
39. Hatfields & McCoys
The family feud between West Virginia’s Hatfield family and the Kentucky McCoys has come to epitomize the concept. The trouble started during the Civil War when the Confederate Hatfields took issue with the Union-supporting McCoys, but the feud officially began with a relatively small infraction, a dispute over the ownership of a pig. An all-out war began, with both families kidnapping, assaulting, and murdering members of the other. In an episode that could be torn from the plot of a novel, Roseanna McCoy began an affair with a Hatfield man, which lead to several more brutal murders on both sides.
The feud ended in the New Year’s Night Massacre, when a group of Hatfields attacked a McCoy cabin in the middle of the night, killing two children, beating their mother, and setting the cabin on fire. The conflict required militias to be called by the governors of West Virginia and Kentucky and, after several Hatfields were given lifetime prison sentences, a truce was called in 1891.
In a bizarre turn, today the families have very friendly relations, and descendants even competed against each other on the TV game show Family Feud.
38. Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr
Anyone who has been paying attention to pop culture for the last few years will recognize this feud, dramatized on stage in the smash-hit musical Hamilton. The two Founding Fathers were important figures in the history of the United States but took their political opposition personally. They campaigned against one another, and in 1804, Alexander Hamilton orchestrated the election of Morgan Lewis to the New York Senate, defeating Aaron Burr.
Burr demanded Hamilton apologize, which he refused, and so he challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1904, Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach while Hamilton’s bullet was shot upward into a tree. Hamilton died the next day but endures a legacy far greater than Burr, which perhaps lends some justice to the story.
37. Miller Time
Few sports rivalries are as storied as the Knicks/Pacers NBA rivalry, and certainly few have such charismatic people at their centers: Pacers’ shooting guard Reggie Miller, and filmmaker Spike Lee. The teams first met in the 1993 Eastern Conference of the NBA playoffs, which saw Knick John Starks head-butt Miller. The teams would meet in the playoffs 6 times between 1993 and 2000, with courtside Knicks’ fan Spike Lee engaging in trash-talking and on-court brawling with Miller, who would earn the nickname “The Knick Killer” due to his impressive scoring. The teams met again in the 2013 playoffs: Spike Lee was once again seated courtside, though Reggie Miller had since retired from basketball and was announcing for the TV network TNT.
36. Cain and Abel
Biblical brothers Cain and Abel invented sibling rivalry, as they were sons of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. Cain worked in the fields while his brother Abel tended sheep, but Cain became jealous when God favored Abel’s offering of sheep meat over Cain’s vegetables. Cain slew Abel (thereby inventing murder) and was marked and banished by God to live “east of Eden” in the land of Nod.
35. Black Spy Vs. White Spy
What might seem like childish slapstick cartoon was actually a way of parodying the political ideologies of the Cold War by expatriate Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohías. Spy vs Spy debuted in MAD Magazine in January 1961, and features two almost-identical spies, one clad in black, one in white, as they engage in cartoony war against each other, often employing booby-traps and other shrewd plans in a bid to do the other harm. The spies alternate between victory and defeat from strip to strip, and whatever difference their color may signify is never revealed to the reader: the spies are locked in constant battle completely devoid of any value judgment about good or evil.
34. Looking Back in Anger
It’s a story as old as time—brother taking up against brother. The pair from Manchester barely maintained a fictional relationship while in the mega-popular band Oasis—they were often getting into verbal altercations with each other and fans while on stage, and clobbering each other with musical instruments and cricket bats. In a 1996 performance on MTV Unplugged, Liam refused to play with the band, forcing Noel to sing lead vocals while Liam, drinking champagne, heckled him from the VIP box. Over the years, the band has tried to reunite several times, only to have one or another brother pull out. Nowadays, the feud still continues, but with less cricket-bat-clobbering—Liam has discovered Twitter, and spends his days tweeting out insults such as a picture of his brother with the caption “Potato.” Never change, Liam!
33. George W. Bush vs Al Gore
It was a feud between two men, but America hung in the balance. In the 2000 US Presidential Election, an unprecedentedly tight race in which Vice President Al Gore won the Popular Vote, while the winner of the Electoral College (and thereby the Presidency) was decided by Florida’s 25 electoral college votes. The race was so close that, at one point, different TV networks had declared both candidates as the winner. A series of recounts saw Bush win Florida by as little as 500 votes, but the closeness and bitterness of the race left a bad taste in the mouths of many Americans.
With talk of gerrymandering and rigged voting machines, Republicans accused Democrats of having tried to steal the election, while Democrats felt they had been rightfully robbed. For years after the election, Al Gore was in the habit of introducing himself with the quip, “I’m Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States of America.”
32. Best of Enemies
The 2015 documentary Best of Enemies chronicles the 1968 televised debates between intellectuals Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr that spawned a decades-long literary feud. Conceived as a ratings-boost, ABC executives asked who Buckley whom he could debate with—he replied, any non-Communist except the “philosophical degenerate” Vidal. Of course, this made Vidal the obvious choice.
The two men lobbed increasingly inflammatory insults during the ten-episode series of debates, with Vidal branding Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley melting down and calling Vidal a “queer”. The series influenced the state of punditry and discourse on American television, and the two men each followed up the debate by writing pieces in Esquire magazine.
31. Blades of Glory
America was stunned in 1994 when ice skating sweetheart Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the kneecap by a masked assailant, and even more so when the crime was pinned on her rival, skater Tonya Harding. Life never seemed easy for Harding, who while blessed with an incredible talent, came from a lower class background and publicly battled with her weight and her white-trash image. Kerrigan, the princess, on the other hand, was All-American royalty, with expensive endorsement deals. With time, a new light has been cast on the whole affair, as the attack was carried out by Harding’s physically abusive ex-husband and she may have had nothing to do with it. Neither skated competitively after the 1994 Olympics—Harding was barred from competition, and Kerrigan faded from view. The incident still remains one of the most memorable rivalries in sports history.
30. Wile E. Coyote Vs. Road Runner
Wile E. Coyote and his nemesis/prey Road Runner made their debut on Looney Toons on September 17, 1949, and have been captivating happy audiences ever since. Wile E. Coyote’s penchant for using ever-more-elaborate tricks and Rube Goldberg-like contraptions to snag his target never seem to work out, and he ends up blown to smithereens most of the time while the carefree and innocent Road Runner is left to zoom along the highways unscathed. Road Runner is practically zen in his approach to life, while Wile E. Coyote’s overthinking and overcomplicating situations lead to constant disappointment.
29. Battle of the Sexes
Feud movies are certainly popular these days, and sports movies always are. 2017 saw the release of Battle of the Sexes, a biopic chronicling the 1970s tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which was known by the same name. King, a top women’s tennis pro, agreed to play in a $100,000 winner-take-all match against former tennis pro-Bobby Riggs, who had made it habit to denigrate women’s tennis and make chauvinistic comments whenever he could, boasting that he could beat any top female tennis player. After beating Australian player Margaret Court, he publicly challenged King to a game.
King easily won the match, which afterward was dismissed as a publicity stunt or an unfair pairing by some. Still, it represented a significant moment for women’s tennis—and all women’s sports—and afterward, King would claim that Riggs told her, “I really underestimated you.” The pair would remain friends until his death in 1995. Riggs reportedly referred to the stunt as “The worst thing I’ve ever done.”
28. Elizabeth Taylor & Debbie Reynolds
Elizabeth Taylor was only on husband number three (out of a lifetime total of eight) when she married Eddie Fisher, making him number four. Taylor’s second husband, Mike Todd, had been tragically killed in a plane crash in 1958. A devastated Liz began an affair with Eddie Fisher, who at the time was still married to Debbie Reynolds, considered America’s Sweetheart. Taylor was cast as a man-stealer, though she went on to marry Fisher, and the next time she would appear in public at the same place as Reynolds would be at the Academy Awards in 1960, where she would regain public sympathy by appearing frail after a serious bout of pneumonia.
27. Peter Thiel vs Gawker
In 2016, Gawker Media liquidated its assets and shuttered its doors. The beloved though controversial media site was the loser in a lawsuit brought by wrestler and actor Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea), whose sex tape Gawker’s flagship news site of the same name had published in 2012 and refused to take down. Hogan sued the site and won $140 million in damages, bankrupting Gawker.
But the story didn’t begin with Hogan’s tape—in fact, his lawsuit had been bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who confirmed that he’d funded more than $10 million of Hogan’s legal fees. Why? Gawker founder Nick Denton claims it was retribution, because of a news item another Gawker property called Valleywag had published in 2007, outing Thiel for dating men. Of course, outing someone against their will is a heinous and unforgivable act—now Denton best make sure his future targets don’t have such deep pockets.
26. A Moveable Feud
They both appear on high school reading syllabi all over the country, but Ernest Hemingway and Fitzgerald were not always so close. The pair started out as close friends and were fellow ex-pats in Paris during the 1920s, but money and professional jealousy drove them apart. Hemingway wrote of Fitzgerald’s marital troubles in A Moveable Feast, categorizing him as a whiner and a sissy. Fitzgerald joined in the verbal sparring, saying “Ernest would always give a helping hand to a man on a ledge a little higher up.”
Hemingway was a known antagonist: he also got into literary sparring matches with William Faulkner, and once into a literal sparring match with Canadian writer Morley Callaghan.
25. Money for Trouble
Leona Helmsley amassed a fortune of between $5 billion and $8 billion before her death in 2007, but the real estate developer and hotel magnate left the bulk of her fortune to charity, leaving only relatively small amounts for specific family members. In a shocking move, she neglected to provide for two grandchildren, yet left $12 million for the upkeep of her beloved Maltese Terrier, aptly named Trouble. While Helmsley’s other grandchildren each received $10 million, the disgraced two took the matter to the courts, who decided Helmsley was mentally unfit when she wrote that will. The grandchildren were allotted $6 million each, and Trouble’s fortune dwindled to a measly $2 million. Trouble lived out the rest of his life in style in a Florida hotel until his death in 2010 at the ripe age of 12.
So things actually worked out OK in the end. Although it still must have hurt to be passed over in the will for a dog. Then again, money does have a tendency to bring out our pettiness. the Helmsley’s aren’t the first ones to feel that pain!
24. Newton vs Leibniz
One might expect mathematicians to behave entirely rationally, but in fact, they’re human just like the rest of us, and professional pride and jealousy can get the best of them. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, European mathematicians working in the 17th century, had an epic feud that affected the history of mathematics. It was over who invented calculus, the discipline of mathematics that studies rates of change. Newton, in England, had written a paper in 1666 describing his version of calculus but did not publish it for 20 years. In the meantime, Leibniz, working in Germany, independently came up with the idea and published his first account in 1684. Even though the two systems used different terminology and were written in different notation, the mathematicians both accused each other of plagiarism and their bitter dispute rippled throughout the world of mathematics—though Leibniz’s notation was significantly easier to work with, English mathematicians stuck with Newton’s system out of loyalty. Today it’s considered that the two did, in fact, come up with their systems of calculus independently.
23. Battle of the Agony Aunts
Twin sisters Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman—better known by their pen names, Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers, were at a time the most famous advice columnists in America. The twins began their trade after Esther got a job writing “Ask Ann Landers”, and had Pauline write responses to letters she didn’t have time for, but Pauline soon debuted her own column, “Dear Abby.” The new professional rivalry turned into a bitter feud, and the sisters didn’t speak for ten years. After Pauline’s death, her daughter Jeanne stepped into the role of Ann Landers, and has taken public criticism from her cousin, the daughter of Esther—the feud is carried on by a second generation!
22. Plumber vs Belcourt Estate
The worst feuds always seem to involve family and money! Plumber Kevin Koellisch was hired to do plumbing work on Belcourt castle in Newport, Rhode Island in 1974. The owner, 84-year-old Ruth Tinney, legally adopted Koellisch, who after Ruth’s death was entitled to a share of her fortune. He filed a lawsuit against her biological daughter for a third of the estate—valued at more than $3 million—but after a lengthy feud in court, walked away with just over $10,000. Her natural heir, Harle Tinney, turned Belcourt Castle into a museum, which now also holds events such as ghost tours and weddings.
21. The Greatest and Smokin’ Joe
The legendary rivalry between boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier became a metaphor for social unrest and racial tensions at the time. Ali, a civil rights hero and conscientious objector, criticized Frazier, who was not political. The pair fought three times. When Frazier won a match in 1971, it was Ali’s first career loss, and his first match since his boxing license was suspended for refusing to be drafted into the Army. Ali won their 1974 rematch, and when Ali won 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila” match, he proclaimed himself “The Greatest.” Even in his 1996 memoir Smokin’ Joe, Frazier stoked the flame of their rivalry, though after his death in 2011 Ali said of Frazier, “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration.” The hatchet was buried, though Frazier didn’t live to see it.
20. Scientology and Psychology
Celebrity feuds are often about petty personal matters, but when celebs start getting political, their feuds get even uglier. Tom Cruise, a devout Scientologist who believes that mind-altering substances of any kind are verboten, publicly criticized Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants in an interview with Access Hollywood. Shields had opened up about her mental health while trying to raise awareness of postpartum depression and accused Cruise of adding to the stigma surrounding the disorder, which affects hundreds of thousands of women in America. Shields said Cruise “should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them,” and later penned an op-ed in the New York Times.
19. 47 Ronin vs. Kira Yoshinaka
In 18th century feudal Japan, a lord named Asano Nagonori was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) after attacking Kira Yoshinaka, a court official. This led the samurai warriors in his command to become ronin, leaderless samurai. The 47 ronin laid low for two years, then attacked Kira, killing many of his men, and cutting his head off, then placing it on the tomb of their departed master. They then turned themselves in, committing seppuku themselves. The story lives on in Japan as an example of loyalty, honor, persistence, and sacrifice.
18. When TV Hosts Collide
While it may not be very dignified behavior for a President, but Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care. At least the insults and barbs he hurls at TV personality Rosie O’Donnell fit right in with the level of discourse on Twitter. Beginning in 2006 after she criticized his management of the Miss USA pageant, he’s called her a “pig”, a “woman out of control”, and “a real loser.” When asked about the feud in a debate leading up to his election, he justified himself thusly: “Rosie O’Donnell—I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.”
O’Donnell has said that his comments were “the most bullying I’ve ever experienced in my life” but also continues to criticize him via Twitter.
17. A Non-Political Way to Divide Every Thanksgiving Dinner
Silicon Valley has been the site of a bitter rivalry since the dawn of the 1970s tech boom, a feud which still rages on today. Steve Jobs/Apple’s vision for easy-to-use, visually appealing gadgets vs Bill Gates/Microsoft’s vision for “a computer in every household” are essentially opposite sides of the tech coin, as easy usability vs lots of customizable options are things every consumer must decide between. High points in the business rivalry include a 1994 lawsuit by Apple vs Microsoft, seeking to prevent them from developing an interface that resembled Apple’s. The feud was immortalized in a series of tongue-in-cheek ads by Apple depicting PC computers with a tweedy, middle-aged, glasses-wearing actor and Macs as a young, handsome actor which delighted consumers.
16. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, and Mary, Queen of Scots
Thank goodness, not all sibling rivalries end up this bloody! Scotland and England have been rivals for centuries, but in 1558 when cousins Elizabeth I of England and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland were in line for the English throne, it could only end in bloodshed. Mary Stuart was barred from the throne by the will of King Henry III, but Elizabeth I was seen as illegitimate by some. Elizabeth I ascended to the throne but viewed Mary as a threat. She had Mary imprisoned for 18 years, then executed in 1587. A rivalry between England and Scotland—between the factions of the Roman Catholic Mary and the Protestant Elizabeth have raged ever since.
15. The Pinstripers and the Crimson Hose
The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have competed for over 100 years in one of the fiercest rivalries in American sports. It began in 1919 when star player Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees from the Red Sox, which was followed by an 86-year dry spell in which the Red Sox didn’t win a World Series (a curse which was broken when they won in 2004). Violence has occurred throughout the rivalry, with the flames stoked by fans, including an incident where a Yankees fan was arrested for stabbing a Red Sox fan in 2010. Maybe this one is fading, since in 2013, Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor of New York City despite openly being a Red Sox fan.
14. A Long Time Ago, We Used to be Friends
The 2004 documentary Dig! chronicled the professional rivalry of Portland stoner-rock band The Dandy Warhols and Anton Newcombe of the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The bands came up together in the psych-rock scene in Oregon in the 1990s, but while the Dandies achieved commercial success, BJM struggled with interpersonal issues in the band, with members getting in fights or quitting on stage. Newcombe took it all personally, and released diss tracks and, according to legend, placed bullets with the Dandy Warhols’ members names on them in their mailboxes. Both bands still exist today, with varying degrees of success. When the film came out, despite having narrated it, Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor criticized it as a “dishonest documentary” and claimed it unfairly portrayed Newcombe.
13. Runnin’ Thru the Six
Thanks to Twitter, anyone can beef! Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly took issue with rapper Meek Mill, who suggested that Toronto rapper Drake didn’t write his own lyrics. The 74-year-old politician tweeted that Mill was “no longer welcome in Toronto”. Mill responded, calling Kelly an “old racist man”. Kelly (or, presumably, the intern who runs Kelly’s Twitter account) has repeatedly trolled Mill on Twitter, but Mill finally took the high road and has stopped responding.
12. Capulets Vs. Montagues
Even before there were Hatfields and McCoys, there were Capulets and Montagues. The two fictional families kept star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet apart in the Shakespeare play of the same name, published in 1597. This tale of true love, rivalry, and bloodshed endures today, read by almost every high school student. It has been adapted for the silver screen three times, most recently in 1996 in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, which gave us Leonardo Di Caprio and proved that even 400 years later, Shakespeare has still got it!
11. Al Capone vs. Bugs Moran
It was the Italians vs the Irish in 1920s Chicago when crime bosses Al Capone and Bugs Moran battled it out over turf. Robberies, kidnappings, and murders ensued as the two men supplied illegal liquor during Prohibition and made millions in the process. The feud culminated in the Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14th, 1929: two of Capone’s men, dressed as police officers, raided Moran’s lair and put 90 bullets into seven of his cronies. After the law began investigating the massacre, Moran began to lay low, and Capone was free to take over the city’s crime rackets until he was arrested for tax evasion in 1939. Capone was released from prison in 1947 after developing severe dementia, and Moran died in prison in 1957.
10. Star Trek vs Star Wars
Call it a feud of the nerds: the debate over which is the better franchise has been waging since 1977 when Star Wars: A New Hope came out, 11 years after Star Trek debuted on television. The two franchises don’t have much in common besides their space setting—Star Wars is more action and Star Trek more politics, but even their stars have gotten in on the joke: Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher debated Star Trek William Shatner on the merits of each on YouTube in 2011. For now, the beef may be quashed: as of 2011’s Star Trek and 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new films in each franchise now share a director: J.J. Abrams!
9. Lennon Vs. McCartney
Once both members of the most famous band in the world, The Beatles’ songwriting duo became bitter rivals for years after. Perhaps a function of having two visionaries in the same band, Lennon and McCartney grew fed up with each other and dissolved The Beatles at the height of their fame in 1970. Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono was often blamed for the band’s breakup, but Lennon told the press “I pretty damn well know we got fed up of being sidemen for Paul.” Die-hard fans have read certain songs from the mid-1970s by each as diss tracks against the other, and the two had reconciled as friends by the time of Lennon’s death in 1980.
8. Sibling Rivalry
Sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine forged the original Hollywood sibling rivalry. Fontaine was 15 months younger than de Havilland and went into acting after, so was forced to take her stepfather’s last name lest their last names be confusing. The two sisters competed for lovers, parts, awards, and attention. The pair went head to head in 1942 when they were both nominated for Best Actress (Fontaine won for her role in Suspicion). When de Havilland won an Oscar in 1947, she famously snubbed her sister’s congratulations.
7. Blonde on Blonde
Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart wasn’t impressed when actress Gwenyth Paltrow debuted her own lifestyle magazine, Goop. “She just needs to be quiet,” said Stewart. “She’s a movie star. If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn’t be trying to be Martha Stewart.” Paltrow didn’t take the hint, and in fact Stewart viewing Goop as competition seemed to give it some credibility. The feud continues: Martha Stewart Living titled an editorial about pies “Conscious Coupling,” a jab at Paltrow’s new-agey phrase for her divorce. Soon after, Goop published a recipe for “Jailbird Cake,” presumably a jab about Stewart’s time in prison.
6. The Real Late Night Wars
Late night TV show host Jay Leno feuded with David Letterman during the “Late Night TV Wars” in the 1990s over ratings, but it was the 2010 controversy that most people remember him for. Leno stepped down as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show in 2009, ceding his spot to Conan O’Brien, whose show Late Night aired on NBC after Leno’s. Leno then developed a lead-in called The Jay Leno Show to air before Conan’s new gig. However, ratings once again caused a conflict, and NBC proposed to restore balance by bumping Conan back to his original slot and instilling Leno in the 11:30 pm time slot once again. There was a public outcry in support of O’Brien, with celebrities like Jim Carrey and Sarah Silverman voicing their support. Posters and t-shirts proclaiming “I’m with Coco,” but Leno was given The Tonight Show back. Conan O’Brien was no loser: he got his own show, titled Conan, and when Jay Leno stepped down for the final time in 2014 the gig went to Jimmy Fallon, who had remained neutral in the feud.
5. Fashionista Feud
It seems a pity that two of the only female fashion designers of the 1930s were driven apart by jealousy. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli were famous designers of haute couture in Paris, and while they would grace each other with faint praise, they were bitter rivals. The most story of their rivalry tells of a costume ball, which a bold Chanel attended in costume as herself, danced with Schiaparelli, who she then “steered” into a nearby candle, causing Schiaparelli to catch fire. Schiaparelli’s fashion house went bankrupt and closed in 1954 while the Chanel brand lives on as one of the world’s most sumptuous luxury brands, but Schiaparelli is still remembered for her avant-garde designs.
4. Clan McDonald vs Clan Campbell
In 12th century feudal Scotland, clans ruled territories and warred with each other often. Bitter family rivalries developed over land, religion, betrayal, and power. The McDonalds and Campbells feuded for hundreds of years, culminating in the Massacre at Glencoe, in February of 1692, when members of the Campbell family were welcomed into the McDonald home but became displeased that the McDonalds were slow to pledge allegiance to King William III and massacred them. 38 McDonalds were killed, and another 40 women and children died after their homes were burned.
This event inspired the “Red Wedding” in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.
3. American Jest
Bret Easton Ellis began a feud with fellow 1990s literary icon David Foster Wallace via Twitter in 2012. This feud is even more egregious because it is so one-sided: Wallace died by suicide in 2008. Easton Ellis went on a tirade, tweeting barbs such as “DFW is the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn’t able to achieve. A fraud.” DFW was no fan of Ellis’ and had taken subtle jabs at him in 1988, but it’s unclear what caused Easton Ellis’s 2012 rant—it seems just plain mean to go after those who can’t possibly respond.
2. Adidas vs Puma
Not many people know that the brand name Adidas is actually a portmanteau of the name of its creator, Adi Dassler. He and his brother Rudi co-owned the Dassler Brothers Shoe Company in 1920s Germany, but a disastrous falling out during the war set the brothers against each other. In 1948, the brothers had split their company two—Rudi called his “Puma”, while Adi launched Adidas. The companies built their factories on opposite sides of the town of Herzogenaurach, which became extremely divided: you either wore Puma or Adidas, never both, and a Puma-wearers were hesitant to marry or associate with Adidas-wearers. The brothers both died in the 1970s—they were buried on opposite sides of the same cemetery—and never lived to see the companies bury the hatchet and engage in a friendly game of soccer.
1. The War of the Currents
In the late 19th century America was poised for electrification, and three brilliant inventors, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse, duked it out over which type of current would be adopted as the standard. Edison championed direct current (DC), which runs continuously in a single direction. Tesla and Westinghouse pioneered alternating current (AC) which reverses direction several times a second (60 times in the USA) and which can easily be converted to higher or lower voltages. Edison could see that AC was gaining traction and didn’t want to lose out on the royalties from a switch from his system, so he engaged in a campaign to discredit AC.
The set of rivals engaged in a series of escalating publicity stunts dubbed the War of the Currents. Edison tried to demonstrate the dangerousness of AC by publicly electrocuting animals, and even had an AC generator used to execute a death-penalty prisoner. Westinghouse scored a contract to have AC power used to light up the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which dazzled onlookers and was a brilliant stroke of PR. In the end, AC power won out and was adopted by the electric power industry, but DC power is still used today for computers, solar cells, and electric vehicles. Both Westinghouse and Edison’s systems are still around, but Tesla, who had sold his patents for AC power to Westinghouse in 1888, died penniless.
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