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Inn's bathroom among the top
By Nathan Welton
The Tribune
April 30, 2005

The Madonna Inn has it all for alimentation and elimination: a world-renowned dining room and a fifth best toilet in America.

That makes it No. 5 in the No. 1 department.

Alex Madonna's brainchild bathroom, with its green tiles, clamshell sinks and waterfall, is among the top places for urination across the nation, according to a new online poll. But there's some slipping going on in there: it dropped from third in 2003.

An airport lavatory with "stylish décor" and "touchless fixtures" in an obscure town in Arkansas placed first in the contest this year. But the famed local john is one of only two that have placed in the top five multiple times.

Alex Madonna designed the custom, hand-built urinal, which features a cavernous maw in which to aim and a waterfall that washes it away.

"This is an inspiration," said owner Phyllis Madonna, standing before the storied toilet in her hotel's basement-floor men's room.

Gary Torr, a traveler from Oregon, even took his wife into the men's room Wednesday afternoon to show it off.

"How can you pass it up?" he asked.

Women touring the facility apparently isn't uncommon.

Phyllis Madonna, the story goes, had designed the neighboring ladies' room, adding in marble counters, leather accents on the doors, a red velour canopy hanging over the mirrors and a chandelier above the toilet.

It was a commodious and commendable commode. But Alex Madonna wouldn't stand for it, so he built his own.

"He was just trying to outdo me," Phyllis Madonna said Wednesday, noting a spirit of gentle competition between the two. "He had an incredible imagination."

Besides those two bathrooms, there are two more for the coffee shop.

The recently redone ladies' room has seven stalls -- including one for wee tots -- and the men's room has a copper urinal with a water wheel and hand-pump faucets.

"The important message here is restroom hygiene matters -- for good health and good business," said Kirk Kirssin, the marketing director for the marketing company Cintas, which sponsored the contest.

"People form perceptions about the way companies do business based on a simple trip to the restroom."

The latest ranking comes from an Internet poll at

"What makes the experience of using a public restroom something special?" asks the contest Web site.

"Is it style? Is it elegance? Is that restroom so clean you are almost ashamed to go home?"

Other high finishers were the Blue Gate Restaurant in Shipshewana, Ind., with fresh flowers and "country charm;" the Columbia Tower Club, with "scenic views" of Seattle; and the Associated Travel Group in Lafayette, La., with its jungle-themed restroom.