The Madison had India's Indira Gandhi, Japan's Yasuhiro Nakasone and Austria's Bruno Kreiske. But the Vista International had Lebanon's Amin Gemayel and Abdou Diouf, the president of Senegal.
The Madison Hotel, at 15th and M Sts. NW, has been the stopping-off place for visiting heads of state and government for many years, but some dignitaries have begun traveling around the corner on M Street to the Vista International, which opened in February.
According to Madison proprietor Marshall B. Coyne, Diouf stayed at the Vista because the Madison was hosting another unofficial royal visitor, and the Lebanese prime minister's visit conflicted with the official visit of the Emir of Bahrain, who was already ensconced in the Madison.
The State Department, for security reasons, does not want two heads of state staying in the same hotel at the same time, Coyne said through a spokesman.
The Madison appears still to have the edge with its $1,200 basic three-room Madison Suite done up in 18th and 19th century English oil paintings, bronzes, Persian carpets and rich fabrics.
The digs at the Vista include its Presidential Suite, a two-bedroom unit with a kitchen, dining room, living room and three bathrooms, decorated by the fashion designer Givenchy and renting for a relatively modest $675 a night.
"This sort of has become a little celebrity hangout," said Vista spokeswoman Colleen Evans.
In addition to the two international visitors, the hotel housed the cast of the Bob Hope Special, which included such luminaries as George Burns, Brooke Shields and Tom Selleck (Bob Hope stayed at the White House), and will host Elizabeth Taylor for several weeks beginning Sunday.