Now, myself, I’m more of a budget traveller. My partner and I will spend a little more on special occasions (my 30th birthday vacation this summer took some time to save for), but we’re still very conscious of the need to be careful. Lavish trips are great, but you don’t want to leave yourself having to exist on slices of white bread straight from the bag for the rest of the year, do you?
As we all know, though, some people don’t need to concern themselves with these things. A-listers like movie stars and beloved athletes aren’t like the rest of us mere mortals. These guys could casually de-wedgie themselves on the soccer pitch, and make more in those two seconds than most of us would in a year.
That’s the world we live in, friends. That’s the circle of life. We enable these people by going to their games, movies or gigs, and they become ever-richer by entertaining us. And not just career-wise, but with every little aspect of their lives that the paparazzi can capture with their telephoto lenses.
That’s what the gossip’s all about. Where are the super-rich going? What are they doing? When it comes to the world’s most elite private clubs, Disney’s Club 33 might not be the first that springs to mind. It’s one heckola of a big deal, though, as we’re about to see.
If you’ve ever wondered what the perks of membership are, what secret memorabilia Walt’s hidden in there or which celebrities you’re likely to see inside (not that we’ll ever get inside), you’d better buckle up and read on.
25 Nobody Really Knows Why It’s Called ‘Club 33’
Let’s start right at the beginning. What is Club 33? Why is it called that? Sure, it’s a private club housed in high-security places in select Disney parks, but what’s in the name?
To this day, nobody really knows. Officially, the club is simply named for the address where the first Club 33 is located (33 Royal Street, New Orleans Square, Disneyland).
That’s all well and good, but there are other theories too. As Disneylandclub33 reports, there’s another possibility. The name Club 33 may instead derive from the fact that there were 33 important sponsors of Disneyland while the club was being created.
24 It’s *VERY* Exclusive
Needless to say, Club 33 isn’t kidding around when it calls itself exclusive. It doesn’t call itself anything, come to that, or even refer to itself at all, because it doesn’t want any of us non-billionaires to hear about it and start rocking up for dinner in our Mickey Mouse onesies. No freaking thank you.
The main barrier for entry is not being the first-born son of a lord or selling your soul to Goofy, but simply having wads and wads of cash. How much are we talking? Well, in Curiosity’s words, initiation is "about the cost of a car ($25,000)."
That’s just initiation, you’ll notice.
23 It’s Limited To Only Three Locations Worldwide (For Now)
With this being Disney’s biggest of big-ticket items (in an on-the-down-low sort of way), it follows that they’d carefully hand pick the locations for Club 33.
They certainly have, too. As of the time of writing, there are currently three Club 33 locations: at New Orleans Square in Disneyland, at Tokyo Disneyland’s World Bazaar Center Street, and at Mickey Avenue, Shanghai Disneyland.
Work is currently underway to bring similar establishments to Walt Disney World parks. They were first scheduled to be completed around fall 2017, but we’re now looking at completion dates of 2019/20. The Magic Kingdom's Club 33 is almost complete, though, as WDW Magic's images demonstrate.
22 Joint Membership? Not In This Darn Club
Now considering that you’re putting down a hefty $25,000 just to be initiated into this private club, it’s not unreasonable to expect certain privileges. Granted, you’ll get some real doozies (as we’ll see later), but there’s one key thing you don’t get: access to the similar amenities at other locations.
As Orlando Weekly states, membership is not transferable, meaning that you’ll only access that sweet, sweet VIP treatment at the Disneyland resort (and Walt Disney World resorts in the future) where you purchased it. Not that the elite you tend to see at these places would have a problem with dropping the cash elsewhere too, if necessary.
21 It’s Really, *REALLY* Expensive
Needless to say, then, $25,000 dollars isn’t the kind of amount that many of us could just drop on a whim. While it’s not a dizzying, life-changing amount, it’s sure as heckola not pocket change. That’s a lot of rent, food, bills, and other essentials, right there. Sure, I’m a Disney fan, but I’m not that much of a Disney fan.
As I say, too, that sum’s just for starters. That gets you into Club 33, but for the privilege of staying in, you’re looking at further premiums. Around $12,000 in annual dues, Orlando Weekly suggests (the exact figures aren’t widely known).
20 Some Rare Disney Alco-Ma-Hol
With Disneyland being the world-renowned Happiest Place on Earth™ and a haven for family-friendly fun (not to mention those who really, really love queuing and/or being penned in by sweaty crowds), you’d probably expect that adult beverages would be a little difficult to come by. After all, Minnie Mouse walking by with a tray full of beer wouldn’t be the greatest of PR images.
You’d be right on that one, too. The hallowed Club 33 is the only place on Disneyland premises that serves alcohol (although Downtown Disney and its hotels offer it too, as Mental Floss reports).
19 It Was All Walt’s Idea
So, yes. We’re starting to put together an image of what makes Club 33 tick. How it works, what it’s all about and so forth. One thing we haven’t really touched on yet is how it came about. For that, we’ve got to turn back to Walt himself.
Disney’s main man attended the World’s Fair in the mid-60s, and was inspired by the various VIP lounges he saw there. This gave him the idea of providing a private place where he could host and entertain Disneyland’s most important visitors, and so work on Club 33 began.
18 It’s Hidden In Plain Sight
So, yes. With the exclusive, not-in-the-guidebook nature of Club 33, its distinguished clientele and those super-high fees to enter, you’d forgive Disney for being just a little bit protective of the whole place.
As such, it’s no surprise to learn that the private club is hidden away. Not protected by gates, fences and a rabid band of impeccably-dressed but vicious ninja waiters in top hats, but behind an elegant keycard and intercom system.
The exterior is completely modest to passers-by, hinting at none of the splendour that lies beyond.
17 A Disney-Lovers Dream
So, yes. With everything we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that Club 33 was designed to cater to Walt’s original vision for it: it’s an exclusive part of a Disney resort, a world away from the thronging crowds yet not entirely separate from it.
This is still part of Disneyland, and your gracious hosts do not want you to forget it. It goes without saying, then, that there are some astonishing priceless Disney pieces to be found in here. “There’s plenty of amazing memorabilia on display… the oak telephone booth from The Happiest Millionaire and a side table from Mary Poppins, from example,”D23 (The Official Disney Fan Club) reports, and that’s just for starters.
16 Now Those Are Some Esteemed Guests
With all of this in mind, you can see why Club 33 has such a mystique about it. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in elite membership clubs anywhere, and among the most exclusive in the world.
As a result, those who are fortunate enough/have sufficient disposable income to get in can expect to rub some pretty darn impressive shoulders. Mental Floss has this to say about the calibre of the clientele: “Johnny Depp sometimes pops in when he's around, and Elton John has played the antique harpsichord that decorates one of the hallways.”
15 You’ll Be Waiting A Super Long Time To Get In
Let’s leave planet Earth just for a moment, and cross over to a strange Bizarro World. Here, we’re all rich. We can all afford to have dinner with Johnny Depp, while Elton John serenades us with a harpsichord in the background. As pleasant as this fantasy is, the sad news is that you need more than money to join Club 33. You need a heaping helping of patience too.
Despite the expense of it all, Club 33 is very, very popular. According to Mental Floss,even if you can afford it, you’ll be subjected to a very long waiting list before becoming a member. How long? “At last count… about 14 years or so.”
14 Walt Hears Everything And Snarks On Everything
As we’ve seen, Club 33 was the brainchild of Walt Disney himself. To leave his own indelible mark on the club, he wanted to add some interactive ‘features’ of his own.
The most notable of these was the animatronic vulture, and the microphones that can still be seen around the walls of the Trophy Room. The idea with these was that Walt could listen to conversations diners were having from another secret room, and use the vulture to ‘respond’ to what they were saying! Now that’s Disney magic in action.
13 Sadly, Walt Just Missed The Party
Whimsical touches like vultures talking to you midway through dinner are just what you’d expect of a fancy club started by Walt Disney. Sadly, the man himself never got to see Club 33 completed.
As reported by Curiosity, while he worked closely on the project, he passed away just five months before the club’s first location was opened. It may have changed a little from his original vision over the years, but that’s progress for you. Aside from that, he’d have been thrilled with how well the whole thing has gone.
12 It Used To Be Even More Elite
Oh, yes indeed, friends. As we’ve seen so far, Club 33 has been an anyone is welcome, if they can afford it sort of affair of late, but that wasn’t always the case. Speaking of Walt’s original vision, his idea was of a place that was strictly only for corporate visitors, and not private individuals.
On its opening in 1967, Club 33 soon earned itself a reputation as (in the words of Orlando Weekly) “one of the most difficult places to get into in Los Angeles.” Financially, this is still really the case, but not in the sense that it used to be.
11 They’re Super Serious About The Rules
As you’d expect of any elite club for the rich and famous, we’re not kidding around when it comes to behaviour standards. You’re not going to walk in here and find Elton John writing E.J was here on the walls or anything like that. We’re talking about a high standard here, in every possible respect.
As The Orange County Register explains, Club 33 rules cover such things as the use of social media (after all, you can’t be secretive if every little thing is live-tweeted, can you?
10 And Super Serious With Those Who Break Rules
Naturally, though, wherever there are rules, there will be fearless rebel renegades who break them. That’s just the way of the world.
What rule-makers around the world need is a deterrent. Something that proves they mean darn business. Disneyland has certainly done that, as their dealings with Joseph Cosgrove prove.
As reported by The Orange County Register, Cosgrove “considered himself a self-proclaimed ambassador to the park’s legendary private VIP club,” having been a member for forty years. A legal battle ensued when Disney ousted him from the club, claiming that the family “repeatedly transferred and sold their membership privileges.”
9 Mickey On Demand?
Next up, we’re going to take a look at the perks you get for flashing this sort of cash around. Membership of the club comes with some serious cachet, as we’ve seen, but the sorts of people that can afford it probably have their fill of that sort of thing already.
Sure, you want to be seen at the right elite events, but you also want to gain some benefit from it. Before we get into the park-access perks, here's an interesting one reported by Disneylandclub33: the ability to call any of the park’s characters to the club (providing they’re given some notice).
8 Practically Percolating With Perks
Of course, there’s some discrepancy with reports of the cost of signing up. As you’d expect, corporate memberships are much more expensive than private ones, and there are different levels of membership to boot (more on that later). With the secretive nature of the whole thing, there are no set-in-stone numbers. Even so, though, we’re certainly talking tens of thousands of dollars, with those annuals fees in there too.
What else does this buy you, beyond access to the dining room? Super convenient park access, for one thing. As reported by Mental Floss, members enjoy free park hopper access tickets, free valet parking, exclusive merchandise access and multiple fast passes for access to rides, among other things.
7 It’s Tickets-Amundo In Here
I know what you’re thinking right about now. Compared to the outlay, that’s about the least you should expect for signing up. I can’t disagree with your hypothetical statement, either, because you’re right on the money with that.
Nevertheless, that’s the privileged life of the rich. You’re paying way over the odds, but you’re being seen doing it, and that’s what counts. That money buys you a whole lot of access tickets. As Mickey Blog states, you’re also getting a pair of Disney Premier Passports (access to Disneyland and Walt Disney World) and fifty single-day admission tickets to bring guests of your choosing, in amongst yet more benefits.
6 Food, Glorious Food
As you can see, then, we’re bringing the whole idea of a VIP experience to a new level with all of this. Which is all well and good, but when you strip the whole thing down to nuts and bolts, I just can’t shake the feeling that you’re spending around $40,000 to dine at a fancy restaurant where Elton John may or may not be playing a harpsichord (sorry, that’s the last time I make that joke, I promise).
While that’s not an idea I can really condone, the food and the setting sounds simply beyond sumptuous. “Lunch is nothing less than a revelation. Just one standout is the magnificently flavored London sirloin steak, generously portioned and bathed in an indescribably delicious Béarnaise sauce,” wrote D23 (The Official Disney Fan Club) of their experience.