Madison Hotel situation report, 72 hours before summit: "What situation?" owner Marshall Coyne says. "This is normal for us."
At the Madison, the 14-story hotel at 15th and M streets NW that will be headquarters for the bulk of the Soviet summit delegation, "normal" looks like this:
The staff of Blair House, where state visitors stayed until renovations began four years ago, has established offices at the Madison. Blair House has supplied a butler and a maid to work with the hotel staff on the floor housing the main contingent of Soviets.
Security forces, huddled around a table off the lobby, rehearse their drill for each of the week's many arrivals and departures.
U.S. and Soviet security men mill about the lobby, orchestrating movement of the Soviet advance team and speaking into all manner of radio transmitters.
The hotel's kitchens and other service areas are closed off by security officers. And the hotel has been declared a temporary foreign mission, allowing police to keep demonstrators 500 feet away.
For almost a week before the summit begins, lines of limousines and embassy cars have cluttered 15th Street, providing a private Soviet transport service and leaving taxi drivers grumbling about lost business.
Although Coyne insists "there is not an iota of difference" between these preparations and those for any of the dozens of other state visits at the Madison, he has made a few concessions to the scope and importance of the summit.
Because the summit was arranged on short notice, the Madison had to ask some guests with reservations to stay elsewhere so the hotel could clear 207 of its 355 rooms for the Soviets. Coyne said the delegation is all male, with one person assigned to each room.
Last week, the Madison sent mailgrams to nonsummit guests who are arriving this week; the letters apologize in advance for any inconvenience caused by the heavy security.
While security arrangements are handled primarily by the Secret Service, Coyne is trying to keep hotel life as normal as possible.
He hopes guests won't have to walk through metal detectors. His kitchen hasn't changed its menus. The Soviets have made no special requests for food, furniture or other extras.
The Soviets will be able to watch cable television, including C-SPAN's feed from Congress and Hollywood fare on HBO. Guest TVs are hooked up to videocassette players; Coyne said the Soviets haven't yet requested particular movies.
As for room service, it is available, but Coyne said diplomats would never phone for food themselves.
"Their protocol people call the Blair House people," he explained. "The Blair House people call our people. And our people take care of it. That is the way it is set up for all visits."
The Madison is no stranger to extraordinary events. Since it opened in 1963, the hotel has been a favorite of visiting diplomats (the Egyptians and Israelis during the Camp David talks -- on separate floors), international figures (Armand Hammer, Billy Graham) and celebrities (Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, the Rolling Stones).
The Soviets chose the Madison with no prompting from the U.S. government, said U.S. Chief of Protocol Selwa Roosevelt.
"No way we ever get into that kind of stuff," she said.
From the start, Coyne, a wealthy real estate developer with a striking collection of antiques, oriental rugs and statuary, set out to appeal to a wealthy and powerful clientele.
"He is quite a hustler," said a government summit planner. "Marshall is a very good salesman. He approaches the ambassadors and talks to them."
Coyne created a sumptuous sanctuary, where rooms offer heated towel racks and thick terrycloth robes, where the restaurants have names such as The Retreat and The Hide-Away, where the public spaces are filled with deep pile carpets, rosewood paneling, Czech crystal chandeliers and period furniture.
In the lobby, a Louis XV writing table sits near a Louis XVI desk, each gleaming with gold leaf and ornate woodwork.
Like most hotels serving foreign dignitaries, the Madison presents gifts to such guests. Coyne said he has not decided what to give the Soviets; he often gives Boehm plates in flower or bird motifs.
Madison employes are hired for "grace," Coyne said. "You're looking for a person that understands the culture of how a chief of state operates." Members of the staff speak more than 30 languages; at least two of them speak Russian, though Coyne said the Soviet delegates appear well-educated in English.
The hotel staff is instructed to know the names of every guest, to accept no gratuities, to keep details of thousands of guests' desires in card files. Phone operators are supposed to recognize guests by voice.
Staff members, who had been instructed by management not to speak to reporters, said the summit is something special, even for people who see the rich and famous check in every night.
"No one will be out sick for this one," said a doorman who insisted on anonymity.
"This is much bigger in scope than the usual visits," said Tony Siriwardane, who runs the newsstand in the lobby of the Madison office building, next to the hotel.
"We are all very excited, with all the security and the Soviets who are here already."
Siriwardane said the Soviets have ordered more than 100 newspapers a day to be delivered to their rooms, mostly The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Individual Soviets "like to come downstairs to browse, especially in the car magazines, and a few for the girlie pictures."
"First there was an advance advance party and now we have the advance party," the news dealer said.
"There's an awful lot of extra people. There's a feeling of being involved in a piece of history."
Outside, across 15th Street from the spot where Madison guests stand beneath heat lamps awaiting taxis, Jimmy Koulouriotis mans the corner that has been his for six years, prime territory for a hot dog cart.
Koulouriotis has yet to learn whether security will require him to leave his spot. He expects he will have to go.
"I have kids and I need work," he said. "Who gives me food if they close me up? This hotel, they have a lot of presidents here. I've seen Gandhi, the Germans, French, everybody, and they never close the streets. This is too much protection. Who would want to hurt anyone, when they are here for peace?"
Staff writer Saundra Saperstein Torry contributed to this report.