Today’s blog is going to be all about Jack. I experienced something wonderful and I simply must brag about it. Please excuse my self-indulgence.
But as is typical of me, first I must give you some background.
When Walt became involved with the New York World’s Fair, he discovered that many of the corporate sponsors, including the ones he was working with, required nicely appointed offices or lounges to be included in their pavilions. These would be places where corporate bigwigs could entertain clients and guests in lavish style, away from the masses outside.
Walt was already entertaining dignitaries on a regular basis at Disneyland and he realized that this same concept would be useful at his theme park. When the fair ended, work began in earnest on New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean. It was decided that this new land would be the perfect place to build a private sanctuary. It would be located on the second floor of the twisting buildings of this Crescent City reproduction. This refuge would be called Club 33. The number 33 comes from the Club’s address, 33 Royal Street. The Blue Bayou next door is 31 Royal Street.
However, maintaining a first class lounge and restaurant would be expensive and Disney wasn’t entertaining dignitaries and celebrities on an everyday basis. So it was decided to open the Club 33 to others – create a membership. This way, the corporations that were already sponsoring attractions at Disneyland could join and help defray the costs. For example, this would provide The Bell System, who sponsored the CircleVision Theater in Tomorrowland, a place to wine and dine guests and customers. Individual memberships were also made available to local businessmen (and later, Disney fanatics). Memberships were not cheap yet a years-long waiting list quickly ensued.
Members are given the right to eat at the Club 33 and are provided free parking and free admission to Disneyland (as long as the use the Club on that given day). They may also make reservations for their guests and do not have to accompany them. All meals are extra as they are not included in the price of membership. In addition, the Club 33 is the only place at Disneyland where alcohol is served.
As many of you might know, I was the maitre d’ at Club 33 for three years (1977-1980). I loved working there and was fortunate enough to meet a number of celebrities and Disney bigwigs.
When the Oriental Land Company (the company that owns Tokyo Disneyland) was designing their park, they used Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in Florida as a shopping cart. They would select the best of what each park had to offer – and the Club 33 was one of the items selected. However, in their park, the Club 33 would be located in World Bazaar, their version of Main Street. Tokyo’s Club 33 is located on the second floor of World Bazaar. If you compared it to the Magic Kingdom it would be above Casey’s Corner (sort of).
Tokyo’s Club 33 fulfills the same purpose as its California cousin. It allows the Oriental Land Company and the corporate sponsors of Tokyo Disneyland to entertain guests in lavish style. Their Club 33 is also the only spot inside the park that serves alcohol.
Arranging a meal at the Club 33 in Disneyland is no easy task for your average Disney fan. You must know a member who is willing to make a reservation for you. And in the scheme of things, there aren’t all that many members. Eating at the Club 33 gives you “Disney bragging rights.” Arranging a meal at the Club 33 in Tokyo Disneyland is even a greater challenge for American Disney fans. Most of us don’t know all that many Japanese corporate leaders with memberships. By the way, memberships in the two Clubs are not reciprocal.
So why am I going into this long explanation?
I was able to pull some strings — strings that must remain anonymous. You see, on my recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland, I was able to eat at their Club 33. You have no idea how excited I was. But the member who made my reservation did more than just secure me a dinner at this exclusive club. He also arranged for me to visit a number of the corporate lounges scattered around the park. You see at Tokyo Disneyland, many of the sponsored rides and attractions have lounges of their own. However, because of the anonymity I must respect, I can’t tell you which corporations and attractions I visited.
Before I left home, I was provided with a detailed schedule to follow on the day of my Club 33 reservation. I was to arrive at the first private lounge at exactly 3:45 (the Japanese are very precise). I was given a map beforehand to help me find the lounge as they are more or less hidden and you’d never locate them without instructions. When I arrived at the first lounge, I was greeted by a lovely hostess and given something cool to drink (non-alcoholic). After relaxing a while, I was taken through a “back door” of an “E” attraction, bypassing an hour-long line, and given a front row seat. After the ride, I was escorted to another private lounge where more drinks and relaxation ensued. Then, once again, I was taken through a back door and bypassed another long line. This happened for three attractions and I easily avoided over two hours of queue.
I have pictures of all of the lounges, but I can’t share them with you because it would be obvious which company’s quarters I was in. However, I did crop this one photo. As you can tell by the smile on my face, I was in Disney heaven.
After visiting the lounges, I was free to wander the park until my dinner reservation time. These next pictures show the Club 33 entrance and me standing next to the door. Take a look at the brass plate to my left. Beneath this panel is an intercom that connects to the hostess inside. Before being granted entrance, you must speak your reservation name here and then you will be “buzzed” in.
Befitting of Main Street, the interior of the Club 33 is Victorian in style. The lobby is on the first floor and guests use either an elevator or stairway to reach the lounge and restaurant on the second floor. These pictures are of the downstairs lobby.
When entering the second floor you’ll find a large lounge and several smaller, private rooms where guests can have cocktails or conduct business. I was seated here for a short time until my table was ready.
I was told in advance that “the best table in the house” had been arranged for me. I was skeptical. Since I used to work at the Club 33 in California, I knew we told people this all the time when it wasn’t necessarily true. But in this case, it was true.
First, the tables at the Tokyo Club 33 are arranged very spaciously – much more so than its California counterpart. You could easily put twice as many tables in this room. This allowed for a very intimate dining experience as you could speak freely without fearing that someone at the next table would overhear you. I only took a picture of my own table as I did not want to intrude on the other diners.
My table was located in a sort of alcove. From my table I looked out onto the Hub and parade route. This next picture shows an exterior view of the window I looked out of.
When my waitress arrived at the table, I quickly discovered she spoke very little English. But since the menu was printed in both Japanese and English, “pointing” became the language of choice. I enjoyed a six course meal with cocktails and wine. However, I could not begin to tell you what I ate or drank. It’s all a Disney fantasy blur to me. But I can tell you it was magical and special in every sense of the word. And I do remember that one course was topped with real gold flakes. For those of you who have dined at Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian, I would say that this evening was comparable.
When I write a restaurant review for Allears, I take pictures of each course. However, I had decided in advance that this would not be the case when I dined at Club 33 for several reasons. First, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wasn’t about to diminish this event in anyway by interrupting my meal. But more than that, once I entered the dining room, I knew it would be gauche and disruptive to take too many pictures. After all, I was a visitor in their country and I wanted to put my best foot forward.
At one point during my meal, I noticed that cast members had taken position at each window in the restaurant. A moment later, the background music stopped playing and the room went dark. At that moment, the cast members quickly opened the sheer curtains to provide us with a view of the Electrical Parade below. Of course, the parade’s music was piped into the room. As soon as the parade ended, the curtains were closed and the lights came back up. Later in the evening, this same exercise took place for the firework presentation. These pictures were taken from my table. I did use a zoom lens, but as you can see, my view was impressive. I really was given the best table in the house.
So what did my two and a half hours of Disney bliss cost? Not counting the souvenirs that I bought, $380 for two.
I want to thank my anonymous friend for giving me a Disney memory that will last a lifetime and be very difficult to top.