Club 33 As It Used To Be: A Photo Tour

We’ve had a handful of opportunities to visit Club 33 over the years, and though I’ve had the best intentions of writing up a trip report each time, I’ve just never gotten around to it. Memorable experiences include my Birthday No. 33 at Club 33, a Ryman Arts Foundation breakfast, and the time Patrick arrived with food poisoning, tossed his cookies into the lobby wastebasket, and still had to pay $90 for a meal he didn’t get.

But most of my reports would have been about the same: celebrating some milestone, drooling over the historical details, snarking about the Blue Bayou-quality food at Napa Rose prices, swiping logo napkins from the ladies’ room, and documenting every single nook and cranny in a million photos.

However, now that nearly every vestige of the Club’s former glory has been erased by a ham-fisted, low-budget attempt to cram in more members, I am compelled to share with you one of the best experiences we ever had at the Club, the time we went with our pals and photographers extraordinaires, Nate and Jensey Root. I am so grateful that they made time in one of their rare SoCal trips to go with us and document Club 33 in their inimitable style.

Before we start, you may want to check out the new version of the club, which is nice in a French Quarter Marriott sort of way but seems to be missing the detail pass it would have been given by a real interior designer or—more accurately, considering the experience of the original Imagineers—a movie art director. (Compare the old and new window treatments to see what I mean). Mice Chat’s Andy Castro shot an excellent interior and exterior photo tour of the revamped club, which you can find by scrolling down a bit in this Dateline Disneyland update.

….

OK! Now, let’s take a look at what Club 33 used to look like…

 photo Club33_004.jpg
 photo Club33_002.jpg

 photo Club33_005.jpg

 photo Club33_109.jpg
 photo Club33_112.jpg

 photo Club33_111.jpg

Could that be THE wastebasket? Surely not…

 photo Club33_006.jpg
 photo Club33_010.jpg
 photo Club33_011.jpg
 photo Club33_039.jpg
 photo Club33_110.jpg
 photo Club33_038.jpg
 photo Club33_012.jpg
 photo Club33_107.jpg
 photo Club33_013.jpg

 photo Club33_043.jpg
 photo Club33_044.jpg

The way it used to work, at lunchtime there was a buffet of appetizers and desserts, and then you’d choose an entree and get billed the price of a one-day, one-park ticket no matter what you ate. The entrees were decent—the same quality you’d get at the Blue Bayou (because they shared a kitchen). The buffet was always the weakest link in the experience, generally made up of picked-over salads, clammy cold cuts and tough, water-logged shellfish. But the Roots make it look pretty dang good!

 photo Club33_015.jpg
 photo Club33_018.jpg
 photo Club33_019.jpg
 photo Club33_020.jpg

Dessert was equally mediocre, with lots of waxy chocolate coatings and weird, booze-filled jelly things. (And yet, as you will see, I ate almost all of it anyway!) The most ridiculous Club 33 dessert I ever encountered was a “s’more” that consisted of a graham cracker and a cold marshmallow floating in Hershey’s syrup.

 photo Club33_016.jpg
 photo Club33_017.jpg

I adored the decor of the Main dining room—not because it was anything I’d ever want in my own home, but because it was so layered with detail that you felt you were actually in a First French Empire-style chateau. My all-time favorite Disney concept artist, Dorothea Redmond, created watercolor inspirations for the interior decor, and movie art director and set decorator Emile Kuri helped Walt and Lillian select antiques for Club 33 on a trip to New Orleans. I apologize in advance for including every single shot Nate took. I just love them all!

 photo Club33_021.jpg
 photo Club33_023.jpg
 photo Club33_022.jpg

 photo Club33_024.jpg
 photo Club33_025.jpg
 photo Club33_028.jpg
 photo Club33_029.jpg
 photo Club33_030.jpg
 photo Club33_027.jpg
 photo Club33_026.jpg
 photo Club33_059.jpg

We were always sure to step out on one of the balconies for a unique perspective on New Orleans Square.

 photo Club33_033.jpg
 photo Club33_057.jpg

 

 photo Club33_054.jpg

 

 photo Club33_058.jpg
 photo Club33_055.jpg
 photo Club33_073.jpg

 

 photo Club33_074.jpg
 photo Club33_060.jpg
 photo Club33_061.jpg
 photo Club33_075.jpg

 

 photo Club33_036.jpg

 

 photo Club33_045.jpg
 photo Club33_049.jpg
 photo Club33_050.jpg
 photo Club33_051.jpg
 photo Club33_052.jpg

I guess even the desserts have that new “free Web font”-lookin’ logo on them now…

 photo Club33_046.jpg

 

 photo Club33_048.jpg

Guess whose plate this is!

 photo Club33_053.jpg

Even Patrick didn’t like that dessert…

 photo Club33_070.jpg
 photo Club33_071.jpg

One of the highlights of any trip to Club 33 for me and, I’d venture to guess, most people, was taking a look at the elaborately themed restrooms. This is the first time I’ve ever seen what the men’s room looked like though!
 photo Club33_092.jpg
 photo Club33_093.jpg

The ladies’ room was equally over-the-top and, on my first visit, more than a little confounding.
 photo Club33_094.jpg

 photo Club33_095.jpg

Wait! Where do you go?!

 photo Club33_096.jpg

Ohhhh….

 photo Club33_097.jpg
 photo Club33_098.jpg
 photo Club33_099.jpg

Views from the balcony on the other side of the club.
 photo Club33_076.jpg
 photo Club33_077.jpg
 photo Club33_078.jpg
 photo Club33_079.jpg
 photo Club33_080.jpg

 

 photo Club33_082.jpg

I have to include this one cuz Patrick took it and it’s adorable!

 

 photo Club33_083.jpg
 photo Club33_091.jpg
 photo Club33_100.jpg
 photo Club33_040.jpg

 

 photo Club33_102.jpg

 

 photo Club33_104.jpg
 photo Club33_105.jpg

 

 photo Club33_106.jpg

I can have this photo reproduced as custom wallpaper, right?

The souvenir case was always full of such old-white-dude favorites as polo shirts, money clips and golf tees, but there was occasionally a simple logo T-shirt or a pin that we’d pay through the nose for.

 photo Club33_108.jpg

 

 photo Club33_113.jpg

 

So, I get it… Disney wanted to fit more people in so they could issue more pricey memberships ($25,000 to start + $14,400/year), and by the looks of it, they weren’t given the most lavish budget for the makeover. But the part I don’t understand—and what breaks my heart more than any change to the club—is the decision to block off the Court of Angels, my favorite spot in any Disney park I’ve been to (including Tokyo DisneySea).

Patrick and I are one of hundreds or possibly thousands of couples who became engaged in that spot, and countless families made the stairs the site of their annual portrait. Even for the casual visitor, the court was a welcome respite from the bustle of the rest of the park and one of the best places to become fully immersed in the atmosphere of Disneyland. Now, in its new capacity as an extra lobby for Club 33, it stands hidden behind plastic doors, with an elevator shoehorned into one corner and its upper reaches disfigured by the same off-the-shelf railings you see in spec homes and strip malls with delusions of Tuscan grandeur.

That’s why I’m adding in some shots the Roots took during our anniversary portrait session in 2009. This is one of the ways I want to remember Court of Angels.

 photo 106.jpg
 photo 105.jpg
 photo 109.jpg
 photo 069.jpg
 photo 083.jpg

 photo 086.jpg
 photo 077.jpg
 photo 101.jpg

 photo 066.jpg

Farewell, Club 33! I don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to visit again, and I’m not sure we’ll even want to. But we sure enjoyed you while you lasted!

No tags 6 Comments 0
6 Responses
  • ATG
    July 31, 2014

    I loved the picture of you spinning. I can’t believe how much they’ve wrecked N.O. Square! It was my favorite ‘land’. UGH!

    • Carrie
      July 31, 2014

      So sad…. 🙁

  • James
    August 5, 2014

    It’s a damn shame. And you didn’t even mention how much it destroys the illusion of being in New Orleans on the outside now

  • Hope at Disneyland
    September 3, 2014

    Gorgeous photos! This is how I remember Club 33. We got to go once for our one year anniversary and because we knew that would probably be our one and only time there we really appreciated our stay. We actually found the food to be excellent on our trip but you’re right about the dessert. It wasn’t good but we made sure to get a plate full anyway. 🙂 I wonder how many ladies accidentally *went* and sat on the cover before they realized that you’re supposed to lift it? LOL Also appreciate the pics of the men’s room. Hubby refused to take pics of it for me.

    • Carrie
      September 3, 2014

      What?! Is this the same man who will wait in line for you at vintage dress sales? I can’t believe it… 🙂

      • Hope at Disneyland
        September 3, 2014

        HA! I know, right? I think he was just nervous that other gentlemen would be in there and think that he’s was being a peeping tom with his camera in there. LOL

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *