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Celebrity tiffs seem trumped-up

I hate feuds. That's because, by and large, they're silly and fraudulent, no matter how enjoyable some bloodthirsty spectators find them.

Find a good feud and usually you'll find someone who habitually gets a lot of attention, and, across the way, a gibbering gibbon jumping up and down in a cage screaming: "Me, too! Me, too! Pay attention to me, too!"

Or, as in the recent Obnoxious Billionaire feud between Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, you had a fellow whose TV show was about to go back on the air doing everything possible to dissociate himself from the awful and badly rated version of his show that was built around ex-jailbird Martha. In effect, the Donald -- immortalized in the history of snarky envy as Spy Magazine's "short-fingered vulgarian" -- was saying: "Me, me and only me! Forget that boring old Martha ever had anything to do with my beloved ego-trip 'The Apprentice.'"

If Donald vs. Martha had any traction at all and claim on our affections, it was only the widespread suspicion that if ever there were two famous Americans who probably deserved each other for eternity, it was Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, people whose fortunes were, in part, founded on the slippery notion that we'd give a horse's patootie how they lived privately.

The whole "feud" was as transparent as W.C. Fields vs. Charlie McCarthy, the great historic radio feud between the bulb-nosed master comic and a ventriloquist's dummy. That, at least, had the good grace to be: a) funny and b) pure showbiz concoction top to bottom -- as obviously manufactured as a wooden dummy with a monocle and top hat.

But then there's Keith Olbermann vs. Bill O'Reilly. Here, at long last, is a feud you can love. It may, in fact, be the only "feud" I have ever enjoyed watching from afar.

It's like this: the two are in nightly 8 p.m. combat in the world of 24-hour news, O'Reilly with his "Factor" on Fox News, Olbermann with his "Countdown" on MSNBC.

You could, if you wanted, simply and superficially separate the two of them into Big Cheese and Gibbering Gibbon screaming "Me too! Me too!"

O'Reilly, after all, gets much bigger ratings and attention all over the place -- radio, bookstores, courtrooms, just about every place but the glue counter at Home Depot. He is, if you'll pardon the expression, an unavoidable "factor" in 21st century life, whether any of us like it or not. Olbermann, up to now, has been famous as a terminal wiseacre whose every gig (ESPN, Fox Sports) seemed to be a bridge he was hoping to burn behind him.

On the other hand, O'Reilly is TV's archetypal right-wing bully -- a face that virtually pleads with the gods to pitch a custard pie.

Enter consummate wise guy Olbermann, whose major skill in life -- some would say only skill -- is that he's a pitcher of custard pies with a Hall of Fame ERA. His whole show is an arch-wise guy's version of the nightly news, a supposed countdown of top stories, including a nightly segment nominating that day's "worst person in the world." Five guesses who frequently appears in that segment.

Well, O'Reilly -- whose skin is thinner than Oscar Mayer bologna -- hasn't been happy about it. He's written that MSNBC ought to replace Olbermann with Phil Donahue and, when callers on his radio show mention Olbermann, cuts them off and threatens to sic the cops on them. Olbermann, in return, has been the perfect O'Reilly antagonist, restricting himself only to the O'Reilly public record -- lawsuits, buffooning pomp, the works. His lambastes have been mercilessly accurate.

Olbermann is a wiseguy to his very soul. You couldn't ask for a better Bill-basher anywhere. In the Newtonian physics of Bigmouth Bluster, he is the equal and opposite reaction America has been waiting for.

If you ask me, he deserves your attention.

e-mail: jsimon@buffnews.com

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