On the whole, W.C. Fields' heirs would rather his name be remembered in Philadelphia--certainly not memorialized by a cafe in the Washington suburbs.
The comedian's heirs filed suit in Alexandria federal court this week charging a Northern Virginia restaurant with numerous trademark violations involving the late comedian's name and likeness.
W.C. Fields Productions Inc., a Los Angeles-based corporation controlled by five of Fields' grandchildren and one daughter-in-law, sought an order stopping W.C. and Friends Restaurant on Arlington Boulevard off the Capital Beltway from using the Fields name or likeness on its "signs, menus, napkins, wall hangings and decor."
The California company claims sole right to the Fields name and likeness and is demanding that the restaurant, which until 1979 was called Solid Muldoon's, either refrain from further use of name and likeness or purchase a license for their use. The company has also asked that the restaurant be made to destroy all materials with the name or the comedian's likeness. The complaint also seeks unspecified damages, attorney's fees and restaurant profits arising from the use of the name.
Fields' grandson, William C. Fields III, a Philadelphia lawyer, said yesterday that this was not the first time that the name had been put to commercial use. Fields' famous 1929 epitaph, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia," has been used by the city of Philadelphia in industrial development campaigns, his grandson said yesterday
The restaurant in Fairfax is another matter, his descendants say. Restaurant owner John Kafalas has declined to comment on the case.
"I feel just awful about this," said Anne Ruth Fields, the comedian's daughter-in-law, of the restaurant's use of the Fields image. "I think they have an awful nerve."
If Fields were alive, Anne Ruth Fields said yesterday from California, "I think he'd tell them where to go." And it probably wouldn't be Philadelphia, either.