As Disney fanatics know, Disneyland’s Club 33 is legendary.
The exclusive venue, with pricey membership fees and a years-long waiting list, is just beyond the crowds on Main Street, U.S.A., tucked away near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the park’s New Orleans Square. Walt Disney himself first imagined the club as an upscale place where guests can dine on elegant dishes and sip fine wines, after visiting the executive lounges at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Since Club 33 opened in 1967 — a few months after Disney’s death in December 1966 — it’s been somewhat of a mystery.
Now, a piece of it, a door plaque that reads, “Club 33,” is one of more than 1,500 pieces of Disney memorabilia that Van Eaton Galleries will sell at auction 7-8 December. Available items, which are on public exhibition through Dec. 6, range from a vintage map of the park as Disney envisioned it to an original vehicle from the Space Mountain ride. The plaque, from one of the park’s most mysterious sites, is estimated to sell for $600 to $800 (£465-£620).
That price would be a bargain compared to the reported cost of membership in the real-life Mickey Mouse Club. In an October 2019 story for Punch Drink, journalist Aaron Goldfarb wrote that once a guest has made it to the top of the years-long waiting list, they still need to pay initiation fees of “somewhere around $25,000, with $10,000 owed annually in dues.” The Los Angeles Times reported in December 2017 that the price was even higher, with an initiation fee of $50,000 (£38,650) and annual dues of $15,000 (£11,595).
Admittance to Club 33 is hard to come by, as indicated in a 2012 post on the official Disney Parks blog, which then-announced that a limited number of new memberships were available, although it was clear that they weren’t easy to attain. (Unless, of course, you happen to be one of its celebrity members, reported to include Elton John, Tom Hanks and Christina Aguilera.)
“This opportunity will initially be offered to those individuals who have been on the Club 33 waiting list,” a Disney employee wrote on the blog post. “As interest and capacity are evaluated, those not currently on the waiting list may be offered opportunities to join.”
The Disney Parks post details the perks that come along with entrance to the clubhouse: “New Club 33 members will now enjoy exclusive sneak peeks at park enhancements and new attractions, and the availability to use VIP tour guides, itinerary planning services, valet parking and complimentary hotel upgrades — it will be like having your own Disney concierge service!”
Lifelong Disney fan Maxwell Glick, who’s visited Club 33 more than once, as the guest of a member, confirms that Club 33 is unlike anything else. He first set foot in the location a little more than a year ago and returned within the past few months for a birthday dinner with his parents.
“There is a new piece of magic to discover each time. It’s more than just the food and the drinks,” Glick told Yahoo Entertainment. “The last time I went, the club member I know said for me to just go up to the Club 33 door and ring the bell and say my name. I did it, and the door opened like magic and there was a Club 33 Cast Member there to greet me and tell me ‘Welcome back Mr. Glick! Please make your way up the stairs!’ It’s just pure magic.”
Glick raved about the pieces of Disney history that fill the club. He said it has this “aura of Walt all over the place,” that it’s the “true Disney lover’s dream place to be.”
Other Disney locations, including Disney’s California Adventure and Walt Disney World, now offer their own versions of the club.
And yet, it continues to be shrouded in secrecy, with questions about what exactly is beyond the front door.
Joseph Cosgrove, of Lake Forest, California, had his membership revoked after he gave away tickets that ended up being sold at a charity auction, the Orange County Register reported in July 2018. He’d been a member for 40 years. However, a company spokeswoman told the newspaper that Cosgrove and his wife “repeatedly sold and transferred their membership privileges, which was a clear violation of membership.” Cosgrove filed a lawsuit against Disney, which was reportedly settled in May 2018.
Disney did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment on this story.
Luckily, social media posts now offer a peek at the Disneyland venue, which Punch Drink reports was originally accessed at 33 Royal Street, albeit just a peek. The rules reportedly ensure that the space is photographed only from its best angles.
Have you visited Disneyland’s Club 33 or its equivalent at other Disney parks? Tell us about your experience in the comments.