Located in New Orleans Square
, California, Club 33 opened in 1967. Walt Disney
worked with artist Dorothea Redmond
and decorator Emil Kuri
to design Club 33, and traveled to New Orleans
to purchase the antiques on display in the club. Disney had intended to use the club to entertain honored guests, but the location spent years on the drawing board
and was not completed until five months after his death.
Visitors to Club 33 first enter an elevator to get to the second floor, and then reach the Gallery, which features many original sketches done by Disney artists for New Orleans Square and the nearby Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The Gallery is also home to two unusual pieces: first is a large oak telephone booth (from which club guests may make free calls) reproduced from the one in the Disney movie The Happiest Millionaire, and second is a rare console table found in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The Gallery leads to Lounge Alley, which features more original sketches on one wall and a hand-painted harpsichord on the other. The Main Dining Room is furnished in a Napoleonic style, with three chandeliers, parquet flooring, and more original artwork from Disney. The Trophy Room can also serve as a dining room, and it features several antiques and a long row of windows to provide natural lighting. This room also features the famous animatronic bird - a vulture, actually, with a speaker connected to an adjoining audio control room. There are microphones in the Trophy Room's chandeliers, enabling visitors to "converse" with the vulture.
Membership in Club 33 is available but very exclusive. It is the only location in Disneyland that serves alcohol, and it employs gourmet chefs. Corporate membership costs $20,000, which allows the company's executives to have access and provides associate memberships for nine additional personnel at a cost of $2,250 per year. A limited corporate membership provides access for just one executive and costs $10,000; annual dues are still $2,250. Corporate memberships may be transferred from one employee to another, but if someone leaves the company they are required to relinquish their membership card. An individual membership costs $7,500 and then $2,250 annually. A membership card of any sort entitles the bearer - which may be the member, his or her spouse, or personal assistant - to free parking and admission to Disneyland (for up to ten persons including the cardbearer) if they plan to dine at Club 33. If they are not going to the club, they must pay full price for admission. Reservations are required for Club 33, and they must be made well in advance; membership dues must be paid within 30 days of receipt of the invoice. Currently there are about 400 members of Club 33, and the time on the waiting list for new members is about two to three years.
There are a number of urban legends, myths, and disputes surrounding Club 33. The most common controversy is over the club's name; the official explanation is that it is named for its 33 Royal Street address. One alternate suggestion is that Walt Disney named the club for the park's thirty-three original sponsors - this is untrue, as Disney did not name the club and there were actually forty-seven sponsors. Another explanation is that after Walt Disney's death, thirty-three of those forty-seven sponsors voted to convert it from Walt's club into a private club; supposedly the 33 Royal Street address was chosen after these majority-voting sponsors named the club for themselves. A related myth is that Club 33 is the only Disneyland location with its own address, reportedly so it could serve alcohol. This is false because all Main Street and Royal Street locations have their own address, including the adjacent Blue Bayou restaurant at 31 Royal Street. These addresses are merely internal designations, though - the club's liquor license carries the West Street general delivery address used for all Disneyland locations. Finally, the idea that the Trophy Room audio system was for Walt Disney's personal eavesdropping purposes is complete fiction. The system was put in place so that Golden Horseshoe Revue star Wally Boag could entertain the guests through the vulture (and several other animatronic animals that were never installed), but neither the speakers nor the microphones are functional today.
Matt Ruff's novel Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy