It's over now, actually. The corporate honchos finally stepped in. Said there were images to uphold, and all that.But while it lasted - and it lasted eight rolicking months - the Battle of Tysons Corner was everything a college fraternity kid could ask for.
The combatants were a Holiday Inn and a Ramada Inn, both hard by the Beltway, about a mile apart, the Ramada just west and the Holiday just east of Tysons Corner Center.
Such "clustering" of chain motels is common in the Washington area, and around the country. Usually, plain old economic rivalry follows. Room rate wars. Coctail happy hours. Free pastry. Machines that shake your bed. That sort of thing.
At Tysons Corner, they went at each other with pranks.
The staffs of the two inns concocted scheme after practical joking scheme. Every couple weeks, one or the other would strike.
The Ramadas toilet-papered the exterior of the Holiday at 3 a.m. The Holidays, dressed as Indians, raided the Ramada lobby at Thanksgiving, shot the place up withe rubber arrows and stole a promotional turkey from its cage.
The Ramadas returned the favor by ordering $200 worth of live animals delivered to the Holiday lobby. The Ramadas followed up by holding an unannouced black-tie dinner in the Holiday lobby.
Not to mention the time that three Ramadas, dressed as Arabs and toting a suitcase ful of "oil-money," arrived at the Holiday and offered in broken English to buy the joint.
Or the time a couple of dozen Holidays arrived at the Ramada in black-shirts, white ties and chauffeur-driven limousines. They pointed violin cases at the Ramada staff and explained they were there to carry out a Mafia "contract" on the Ramada manager.
In all, there were about a dozen stunts. No one was injured. By all available testimony, no customers were offended. All sides insist it was all in fun. The cops were never even called.
According to reliable sources, the only casualty was a potted palm in the Ramada lobby. A rent-a-llama ate some of it.
The Tysons Corner pranksmanship was largely the brainchild of Ramada district manager Lenny Stark, who looks a little like - and obviously thinks a lot like - Henny Youngman.
The spark struck Stark one evening last August, when he and a coworker were having drink in the Holiday bar.
"On the way out, I stopped by the front desk for a book of matches." Stark said, "and was surprised to find that the only matches they had were labeled 'Giant Food.'"
It was a matter of mere hours before a Ramada sales secretary arrived at the Holiday bar. She began placing Ramada matchbooks on every table. She was quickly caught and almost as quickly ejected, but the battle was on.
The turkey heist and the unwanted menagerie soon followed. But for sheer cloak-and-daggerism, the Toilet Paper Caper remains untopped.
Peter Leitner, a Ramada's food and beverage manager, rented a Holiday room incognito one February night. He was carrying four suitcases and a large brown shopping bag. All were crammed with toilet paper.
At 3 a.m., Leitner was joined by four Ramada coconspirators. They took the stairs to the roof. Then a stroke of luck: It was misting lightly. The toilet paper would stick!
At it they went for an hour. "I think they're still trying to get some of it off," said Stark, who naturally mailed his counterpart, Jim McEnanem, a photo of the paper-festooned Holiday Inn sign a few days later.
The last act of the Tysons show came March 22, or a few days after Holiday innocently sent Ramada some flowers to congratulate the latter on the opening of a new coctail lounge.
It was a Trojan Horse bouquet. The "delivery boy" turned out to be several Holidays. On the door of the main lobby men's room, come." They wheeled in an electric piano, a free bar and snacks. Then they partied amid the urinals until past midnight. The only interruptions came from some very surprised gentlemen who had wandered in for other purposes.
Who's been paying for the pranks? Stark said some of the cost is absorbed as promotion, and some is paid by individual employees.
But what of some poor schnook who has just driven 800 miles? Might he find it less that funny to meet a lion in the lobby? Isn't the best surprise no surprise at all?
"The guests love it," said McEnanem. "Everybody suggests ideas."
"It's a fantastic morale-builder for the staff, too," added Stark. "The hotel and restaurant business is really show business, after all."
But the big boys felt otherwise, and now the Battle of Tysons Corner has ended, or at least lapsed. The signs were apparent during Easter. Ramada had two bunnies on display in a cage in its lobby. No one ripped them off, or convinced them to run for president.
The one monument to the battle sits in the lobby of the Holiday Inn. It is another cage, containing two slightly baffled-looking birds. They are doves. As in peace.
(This article was prepared with the assistance of special correspondent Vivian Douglas Smith).