Stars Are Trading Barbs, and Some Are Quite Pointed

Celebrities got a little punchy this week and said some things that translate into an invitation to a verbal throwdown.

But will the public disputes die down or will they linger? Only time can tell. USA TODAY gets some projections on the latest Hollywood spats from Melanie Bromley, West Coast bureau chief of Us Weekly.

Etta James vs. Beyonce: What a difference a few months can make. When Cadillac Records opened in December,James, 71, and Beyoncé, 27, who portrays her in the film, walked the red carpet together at the premiere. During a concert in Seattle last week, James knocked the singer's performance of At Last at the inauguration. "You guys know your president, right?" she began. "I tell you that woman he had singing for him, singing my song — she's going to get her a - - whupped. . . . 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." James told New York's Daily News Thursday that she was kidding and that the jokes were "not from a vicious place."

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The fallout? Long-lasting: "Here are two such iconic women who are going at it on a presidential scale," Bromley says. "Beyoncé hasn't responded and has been very respectful and careful not to entangle herself into this argument. Etta was at a concert with her fans and in a place where she felt comfortable.

Stephen King vs. Stephenie Meyer: King, 61, spoke to USA WEEKEND about whether his work has paved the way for writers, such as Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling and Twilight's Meyer, 35. "I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that's a good thing. Both Rowling and Meyer, they're speaking directly to young people. . . . The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good." But King did back off a bit by explaining, "You've got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he's just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he's very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books."

The fallout? Moderate: "This is not the worst I've seen and not the tamest," Bromley says. "It gets a 3 because of the sheer amount of fans for Twilight and Harry Potter. This is the kind of argument that is only the beginning of the debate. This is just Stephen King's opinion. At the end of the day, it's the fans who are judging, and sales prove these books (by Meyer) are fantastic."

Ashley Judd vs. Sarah Palin: Judd appears in a new online video for Defenders of Wildlife, which admonishes Alaska's predator control program and the practice of killing wolves and bears from airplanes. Additionally, the PSA targets Gov. Palin, a supporter of the program. "It's time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery," Judd, 40, tells viewers. Palin, 44, argues her stand by saying the program sustains moose and caribou populations for Alaska subsistence hunters. The former GOP vice presidential candidate also chides the animal rights group for soliciting donations on the video. Palin said it was "reprehensible and hypocritical" that the group would use Alaska and her administration to help raise money.

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