LOS ANGELES — Ping pong is having a moment, thanks in no small part to Susan Sarandon.
The Oscar-winning actress and self-described “ping pong propagandist” envisions a nation of table-tennis players. To that end, she’s the famous name behind SPiN, a series of “ping pong social clubs” that opened its latest location in Los Angeles Wednesday. There are also clubs in New York, Toronto, and Milwaukee.
The newest SPiN club, a partnership between Sarandon and famed hotelier Andre Balazs, takes over the entire second floor of Balazs’ trendy Standard Hotel in downtown L.A., boasting a custom-designed red table as its centerpiece. Professional instructors are available to teach the basics to those who didn’t grow up with a table in their basements and to help amateurs perfect their skills.
Sarandon, 66, has been giving ping pong tables to friends and to inner-city schools since she helped open the New York club in 2009, and she talked with The Associated Press about her ping pong mission.
What led you to become such a ping pong enthusiast?
I am more a propagandist than a player. I love the game because it cuts across gender and age and body type, and you can play it until you die, unlike other sports that you have to abandon at a certain point. It’s a great family game because little girls can beat their fathers. It’s a great dating tool because, you know, rather than just sit and drink and be awkward, you can face each other and have music playing, so it’s a pretty easy sell. ... The definition of the club is a community of people who get together to socialize, philosophize and exercise around this little ball. So that’s what we were trying to tap into.
How often do you play?
There was a time when I wasn’t working as much. I had a foot injury but I could still stand behind the table and play, and then I was there a lot. But lately I haven’t been playing that much at all, because I have been all over the place. And that’s what’s great about the social network — once we get clubs up everywhere, if you find yourself in another city, you can just go on the social network and find people to play. So it’s a social network that actually has a brick-and-mortar component to it.
How different are the clubs city to city?
We have certain elements that make up what we’re trying to do, certain design components, but really, it’s all different depending on what kind of drinks are served more often in Milwaukee as opposed to New York, or how much a table would be in those cities. We hope that people have a space that’s very individual and have elements that are very special, and then you work with them to embrace those elements. The club in Dubai is going to be unlike anything we’ve done before. ... They’re going for the most expensive table in the world, which is going to be gold plated.
Are you doing a ping pong movie?
Isn’t that hilarious? Yeah, the ping pong movie is a very indie project but it was really fun to do. It's basically, I guess you could say it’s The Karate Kid with ping pong, and I’m Mr. Miyagi.