October 23, 2008 in City

The happiest place in the Happiest Place on Earth

By The Spokesman-Review
 

We begin today’s tale with me swiping complimentary paper hand towels out of a fancy men’s room at Disneyland.

I know that behavior sounds so unlike me – but it’s true.

I was at Disneyland.

(Some of my more alert readers noted the absence of the last couple of columns and wondered if I had been downsized. Not according to my pants, which keep having to be upsized).

With the economy crashing like beer-soaked college kids off a frat house balcony, I decided to blow the last few remaining bucks of my retirement account and take the entire family to the Happiest Place on Earth.

So as I was saying …

I was in this men’s room stuffing the inside pockets of my sports jacket with paper towels which, I realize, is considered a classless act even in most hillbilly cultures.

But these babies were souvenirs. That’s because they bore the gold logo of Disneyland’s most exclusive and semi-secret attraction.

No, not “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.” That Tomorrowland attraction doesn’t even have a height restriction.

I’m talking about a little-known, members-only (and their guests) restaurant in New Orleans Square.

Club 33.

This place is so on the down-low that Mickey hasn’t even told Minnie about it.

Some Club 33 facts you should know:

•The only thing identifying the restaurant from the outside is a “33” next to a nondescript door.

Thousands of visitors pass by each and every day, never realizing that behind that door lurks the only place in Disneyland where drinking alcoholic beverages is allowed.

(Disneyland is drier than a Pentecostal temperance meeting, which is a damn shame. In my opinion, anyone able to survive the harrowing ordeal of, say, Space Mountain deserves a vodka and tonic.)

•According to legend, Walt Disney wanted a quiet, elegant place where he could wine and dine his show business cronies and imaginary cartoon friends.

The result was Club 33, which opened for hobnobbing in 1967.

That opening, alas, occurred several months after Disney died and, according to rumor, had his remains preserved in a cryonic chamber.

(I dug around in the ice on the Club 33 buffet bar hoping to find Walt’s frozen head. Unfortunately, all I came up with were more tasty lobster tails and crab claws.)

•Club 33 has fewer than 500 individual members. If you want to join, the fee is $7,500 plus $2,500 annual dues.

But you should forget about joining. Really. Even if you are filthy rich, the current wait, according to one Web site, is 14 years.

•Club 33 décor is true to the New Orleans theme. The drapes are heavy. The wood is dark. There are antiques and original art everywhere you look.

•The custom harpsichord has been played, at different times, by Paul McCartney and Elton John.

•A marble-topped table from the movie “Mary Poppins” stands in front of a mirror in the hallway leading into the dining room.

•Club 33 servers all exude that extra-chipper attitude only found at Disneyland and certain major religious cults.

•The food is gourmet all the way.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking: What’s a paper towel-thieving cynic like me doing in a ritzy place like that?

Actually, the entire family got a Saturday lunch reservation. It came thanks to some generous big shot and Club 33 member who knows my son, Ben.

I hadn’t been to the Magic Kingdom in 25 years. But it is still a wonderful place where your every dream can come true.

For example: I tried on a Goofy hat, saw Tinker Bell start the fireworks, chatted up the Mad Hatter and got very close to some sweaty strangers while standing in long, long lines.

Did I mention that Disneyland never gets enough credit for selling one of the world’s greatest corn dogs?

And, for the record, I did not spend a lot of time in Club 33 stealing paper hand towels.

I also grabbed a handful of monogrammed swizzle sticks.

Oh, well. I guess that proves the old saying:

You can take the columnist out of Spokane. But you can’t take the Spokane out of the columnist.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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