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Vixen of Pong

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“Susan did a remarkable job on it,” Bricklin tells me. “She spent over two years compiling interviews”—then he adds, rather wistfully, “It’s too bad that it can’t be a publicly released film, it’s so good.”

“It took over a year,” Sarandon tells me. “And in the process, I just became inundated with their passion for Ping-Pong. One thing led to another, and I started investing, and we found a space, and I started decorating, and Todd Oldham helped me on a shoestring—I can tell you every inch of Ikea! And they were right: Introduce booze, and good music, and Olympic flooring, and nice lighting, and it works.” (Sarandon also came up with the slogan “Balls Are Our Business” for the club’s T-shirts, the ones the busboys are embarrassed to wear.)

“She’s wonderful,” says Bricklin. “When we got involved in this project, I had no idea she would spend this much time. Of course, she was very involved, but I thought it would end. She’s managed to go do acting jobs that she normally does, but she spends so much time on this. We went to Sweden together to meet with the world’s greatest Ping-Pong player!”

Bricklin, whose business card reads “Propagandist & Impresario,” has big plans for SPiN, including that TV series, which is called The Magnus Effect (the title refers to the physics phenomenon that causes the curved motion of a spinning ball), as well as franchises in L.A. and Milwaukee. “I’m trying to pull out personalities,” he explains. “So that it’s more in the realm of pro wrestling.”

As music pounds from the speaker, I ask if he and Sarandon are dating. “No,” he says. “No, no. But we spend a lot of time together—a lot of time.” He’s adjusted to the tabloids. “I don’t read the papers that often, but I walk by and I kind of scoff at whoever’s there. So when the equivalent happened to me, I was just horrified. And then I got over it, a day later. Business was notably better from the first article on. I mean, I’m happy as shit if that sells things.

“It wouldn’t be as funny if Susan was more concerned about that,” he adds, glancing over at her. “But she’s cool. Her family’s cool. So everything’s fine.”

Bricklin is piqued by those “boy toy” jokes. “They always get my age wrong: I’m 33!” he says. “I hear about someone in their thirties, I’m like, they’re an old person, they’re an adult.” People “in general are so sexist,” he concludes. “I mean, that’s an obvious point. We could go over all the obvious points.”

I walk over to Sarandon and tell her what Bricklin said: that business had spiked with the gossip about them. “Ha,” she says, but it’s a laugh so dry it’s barely a laugh. “Well, yes, but it wasn’t so great, because he had a girlfriend at the time.”

At the club, Sarandon is in fact strikingly surrounded by young men—her partners, the players, her son’s friends (several of whom are camping at her place while Jack is home for the summer). But she’s unsurprisingly sick of the cougar jokes, a refrain throughout her late career. (For the first half, she was the younger woman: with her husband, then with Malle, fourteen years her elder.) “They come in with the story they want to tell,” she says. “I mean, after I did White Palace, it was also all about being an older woman.”

I give her my own canned theory: that people love the idea of her as an invulnerable erotic adventurer, to counteract those “bad man” stories out there.

“I feel there are possibilities …” she says vaguely. “And I also feel unsure about what’s happening. But I haven’t been on some kind of social whirl! I’m always ‘showing up’ somewhere I haven’t shown up.

“And now it’s time for the dance contest,” she adds—$50 to the winner.

“Twist and Shout” blasts from the speakers.

Couples spill onto the floor. A chubby 13-year-old boy spins a model in white short-shorts. A tomboyish white girl does a kooky jog-dance. Two African-American dandies (“Jake and Jake,” announces the D.J.—they’re baristas from the nearby Starbucks) mirror each other’s hip thrusts, blank-faced, and the crowd goes wild.

Sarandon whispers instructions to the D.J.: It’s not fair, she points out, that the couples are competing to different songs. But mostly, she sways her flip-flopped foot to “You Sexy Thing” and “Praise You.” When Jake and Jake win, Sarandon throws her head back: “Whoo!” she screams. “Whoo!”

And then quietly, to Bricklin: “I think that went very well, don’t you?”

During a break, I notice Sarandon standing with a depressed-looking player, a twentyish guy with lank blond hair. “Well, that’s what’s happened,” she says gently, her hand on his arm. “You’re losing your confidence.”


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