By People Staff
May 29, 1978 12:00 PM

When comedian David Brenner appeared on The Mike Douglas Show last winter, he did a routine about a character called “Jack Fountain—the kind of guy that gets on my nerves the most. Jack Fountain’s the kind of guy,” Brenner told the audience, as Douglas played straight man, “that if we’re at a party right now and someone comes in to say, ‘You know who’s coming over? Jack Fountain and Adolf Hitler,’ everyone would go, ‘Jack Fountain?!’ ”

The audience howled, but when the taped show was seen in New York, one viewer was not amused. “I’m not a fighter,” says Manhattan restaurateur Jacques de la Fontaine. “I’m nonchalant. But a man has to defend himself. Everyone knows that ‘de la Fontaine’ means ‘of the fountain.’ ” In retaliation he has sued Brenner and CBS, which owns the station that carried the show in New York, for $1.5 million. “I taped it all and then called my lawyers,” de la Fontaine says. “They told me, ‘This is the biggest case in history!’ ”

Brenner, meanwhile, regards the suit as an epoch-making grab for publicity. There is no connection between Fountain and de la Fontaine, he insists; he merely plucked the name out of the air, as he frequently does in his act. “I tried to think of a guy who’s always bragging,” Brenner explains. “Waterfall was the first thing that came to mind. Then I thought, ‘Who’s gonna believe that’s a real name, Jack Waterfall?’ So I thought of spouting off at the mouth—that’s how it came about. I never thought of this guy in any way. It’s ridiculous. Now I’m being used as a commercial for a second-rate Hungarian restaurant.”

De la Fontaine, 35, a three-times-married Hungarian émigré who was brought up in France, refuses to accept Brenner’s plea of coincidence. He points out that his estranged wife, Israeli singer Edna Lev, 27, frequently performs with Brenner, and the two of them have been linked romantically. Their relationship apparently began two years ago after de la Fontaine left his wife for Finnish beauty Anne Marie Pohtamo, 21, Miss Universe of 1975. De la Fontaine says Lev is still bitter and refuses to give him a divorce. “I was tipped that Brenner was going to appear on that show, so I watched. I realized he was trying to make funny about me. He even made a joke of my accent.”

More important, de la Fontaine claims business at his restaurant has fallen off 40 percent, mainly because his clientele is mostly Jewish. “You can’t compare a person to Adolf Hitler in New York,” he says bitterly. “They think I’m an anti-Semite. I’ve had to lay off all kinds of people, and I’m working my ass off to get my money back. Now I’ve even had to hire a man who happens to be Jewish at $500 extra a week, just to show the clients I’m okay.”

Brenner’s attorney, Robert Cinque, says he will move to have the complaint dismissed. “People like David are big targets,” he says. “If Jacques is glorified in any way, everyone will start inventing lawsuits.” As for Brenner, he is anything but contrite. “I don’t know why this guy is so upset,” he cracked when he learned he was being sued. “What bothers me is that I got a call from Adolf Hitler’s lawyers.”