Sure, Congress might be wolfing down Freedom Fries these days. But legendary comic and card-carrying French icon Jerry Lewis doesn't want to jeopardize his status with the Eiffel Tower set.
The onetime Nutty Professor and proud owner of France's highest civilian honor, the Legion of Honor, is reportedly seething over a radio hoax involving a Lewis impersonator and French President Jacques Chirac and is even considering a lawsuit against the perpetrators, his lawyer says.
Alan Isaacman, Lewis' legal rep, tells EW.com that the funnyman was less than amused when he heard Los Angeles radio station KROQ's top-rated "Kevin & Bean" morning show phoned up Chirac's office back on March 12, posing as Lewis.
The show's Ralph Garman did such a dead-on Lewis, that, to everyone's astonishment, Chirac apparently picked up. At least a man identifying himself as Chirac spent eight minutes in a convesation about current events, ranging from France's antiwar stance, American backlash at the French position and the conflict's affect on the United Nations.
"The resolution [Bush] wanted to send [to the United Nations] a few days ago says [Iraq] has one week before the attack, and that is not reasonable, you know," the purported Chirac said during the interview.
Then in a gesture of détente, the French prez extended a cordial invitation for the comic legend to visit him the next time he's in Paris.
"Understand one thing: France and I will always be friends with America, even if we have two different views of this problem," Chirac added.
Issacman said that after listening to a copy of the tape, he fired off a letter to the station objecting to the fraudulent use of Lewis' image and voice for the prank and saying the 77-year-old entertainer was considering legal action if the faux Lewis did indeed talk to Chirac.
"He's irate about it," Isaacman told EW.com, adding that such a conversation by an impersonator was reprehensible. "That caused Mr. Lewis great damage. It's a terrible thing to do at this time of crisis in our nation's foreign policy."
Isaacman said the deception will have serious repercussions on Lewis' ability to talk to diplomats, since the dignitaries might not actually believe it's the "Hey, Lady!" guy on the line.
"The French people appreciate his professional accomplishments and humanitarian contributions," Isaacman noted. "Something like that could easily be misunderstood."
A spokesperson for the station, which is owned by Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting, declined to comment, except to say that the company was "looking into it."
Meanwhile, prankster Garman and the show's hosts, Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter, have officially remained mum on the incident, although they have made tongue-in-cheek references on air to looking for new jobs.French officials, though, insist their president wasn't suckered by the poser Lewis. "It was not Jacques Chirac," Anna Laban, deputy press attaché for the French consulate in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. "We're all very sure here. It was a joke. I don't think Jacques Chirac would have been on a live talk show."
"It was definitley not him. We would have been informed."
When not fretting over phony French connections, Lewis has been working on his memoirs about his career with late rabble-rousing partner Dean Martin, tearing up the nightclub circuit and the big screen in the 1940s and 1950s.