Clint Eastwood might belong to many clubs: golf, country, and four-time Oscar winners among them. But there’s one organization he’s entitled to join that’s even more exclusive than any Hollywood cabal. Eastwood was a 21-year-old army private in 1951 when the pilot of a plane he was riding in ditched just off the coast of Point Reyes, California. That long-forgotten involuntary dunking deeds Eastwood the right to join the Goldfish Club, each of whose 400 or so members has either survived a crash landing onto the water or parachuted from a stricken aircraft into the water. He can proudly wear its insignia, a badge that features a goldfish with wings, flying over two blue stripes.
George H. W. Bush was an honorary member, after a crash during World War II. Richard Branson has claimed to be a member, which would mean shelling out $14 each year for the privilege after bailing out into the ocean during one of his hot-air-ballooning stunts, although the club has no record of his joining; perhaps he had to re-allocate the cash to his space race. (The club says that, if Branson did join in the past, his annual membership has lapsed. They would love for him to rejoin.) Anyone with a similar story is welcome to petition for membership, too, per Jason Phillips. Phillips is the club’s editor and archivist, and earned his own water wings after enduring a crash landing off the coast of England 20 years ago in a burning helicopter. Likely, though, Phillips will hunt you down before you find him, and tap you to join, Skull and Bones–style. “I keep my eyes on the news now, and go out to contact them,” he tells Air mail. “This is the club with the cheapest dues of any organized club in the country but the hardest joining routine.”