The Club 33 Edition

On Disney, exclusivity, and intrigue

Colin here. There’s always a mystique and aura surrounding exclusive members’ clubs. And I’m not talking about Soho House. Rather, places like 5 Herford or Hurlingham Club in London, or the Roppongi Hills Club in Tokyo. But one of the most exclusive examples is in a place you wouldn’t expect: Anaheim in Los Angeles. Even more, it is buried inside of a theme park next to an aging animatronic ride. 

Club 33, described as a “members club hidden in plain sight” at Disneyland has a storied history: it is a rarified white-glove experience nestled next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (the scene of me losing my mind at 4 years old, while going down the first small waterfall, but I digress). The club was originally founded for Walt Disney to look after super high-profile guests at the park. But it has remained since then and been host to the great and the good passing through the gates of the park.

According to Thrillist:

Boasting an alleged initiation fee of $25,000 to $50,000, with annual dues as high as $30,000, and a 10-year waiting list to join, Club 33 is a five-star restaurant and lounge whose members are corporations, high-rollers, and celebrities. It’s rumored that Tom Hanks is a member. Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, actress Rebel Wilson, and former Playmate Holly Madison are purported members, too. It’s also the only venue inside Disneyland to serve alcohol, and there’s a mandatory dress code. But it’s difficult to confirm any of these details, because everything about the club is shrouded in secrecy.

Why is this interesting? 

Disney has notoriously high levels of attention to detail with the park, their way of preserving the magic for young children. There are incredibly codified etiquette rules for staff and even more for staff playing the role of characters. 

Club 33 takes it to another level with white-glove levels of hospitality and decidedly old-world framing: it is not business casual in any way, shape, or form (there’s a dress code). The cuisine is old school, and the prices are over the top. But the true secret sauce here lies not in the environs, the design, or the service. It is the mix of intrigue, a sizable fandom, and the ever-exclusive mystery and exclusivity that creates so much cachet. Disney’s standard operating procedure in talking about the club is to not talk about it. Much like Amex doesn’t ever comment on its Centurion Card, which only makes it more scintillating. It is the social capital of going to Club 33, which has equal weight for a Disney nerd as it does a discerning diner, unlocking unique stories and anecdotes for a cocktail party. Chateaubriand tastes like Chateaubriand, but when it is consumed in a secret hideout in one of the world’s most popular places it is all the more glorious. (CJN)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

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