|By Lindsey Allmon|
Tucked away in New Orleans Square in Disneyland is a simple door. It blends in well, barely noticeable, except for the large plaque brandishing the number 33 marking its address, 33 Royal Street. Yet behind that simple door lies the most exclusive club in America, housing priceless Disney artifacts and an experience that does have a price…and it is hefty. Continue after the page break for a look inside the elite Club 33...
The idea for Club 33 came from the VIP lounges Walt Disney admired at the New York World’s Fair in the mid-sixties. He loved the idea of having a place that he could take the corporate elite, thus, the seed for Club 33 was born. Club 33’s name officially hails from the address already assigned to the space when the park was built, 33 Royal Street, however it is rumored that the name actually pays homage to the 33 corporate sponsors that were supporting Disneyland when the club was being built. The club opened in May 1967, just five months after Disney died, and though initially only planned to be host to corporate sponsors and Hollywood and animation VIP’s, Club 33 began offering individual memberships as well. Think you want in? Well I hope you have deep pockets. An individual membership will run you $11,000 per year, and that’s in addition to the $27,000 initiation fee. Don’t have that kind of cash? Don’t worry, the waiting list is so long it takes 14 years to get a membership, and even then Average Joes will often be passed up for more famous clientele. And even after you make it in you still need to book reservations sometimes years in advance before you are able to get a table.
Once upstairs you are immersed in pure Disney history. Amidst the decadent atmosphere lies a full bar and props and furniture from Disney films and his own life, including Victorian pieces handpicked by Walt himself. The above picture shows a piano in the background that is one of these such artifacts. It’s said that this piano was specially made for Lillian Disney to play, and since the club's opening, it has also been played by Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney. The club also features the dining room table from Mary Poppins and a telephone booth used in The Happiest Millionaire, along with original cels from Fantasia.
The club is separated into two main rooms, the trophy room and the main dining room, both pictured below.
The club doesn’t end there though. It also has a balcony overlooking the square, reminiscent of the balconies overlooking Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It allows patrons to catch many of the shows that take place in the square and offers them a one of a kind view of Disneyland.
Club 33 is Disney’s own personal handiwork and yet few have ever or will ever see it. It is a piece of Disney history that is frozen in time and while I will likely never get to see the inside in person, I will always marvel at the history that lurks behind the inconspicuous door at 33 Royal Street.
|A painting a Walt that hangs inside Club 33|
Below are some beautiful photos of Walt taken inside Club 33: