Ping-pong (or table tennis, if that's how your ball bounces) has become a lot more high-profile since Susan Sarandon joined forces with the founders Jonathan Bricklin, left, Franck Raharinosy and Andrew Gordon in the SPiN Galactic club venture. After visiting Abu Dhabi in 2008 for the then-Middle East International Film Festival (now the Abu Dhabi Film Festival), she returns to the UAE next week to open the fifth branch of the nightclub, SPiN Dubai, in Wafi City. She kindly answered some questions we had about her and ping-pong.
So, why are you so into ping-pong?
Ping-pong cuts across gender, age and body type. You can play into your twilight years, unlike basketball or soccer. You don't get hurt. It's great for socialising because you play face to face. It's fun at every level of expertise... and at SPiN you don't have to chase down the ball. We just keep filling up a bucket of balls.
I bet you've had some strange/surprising/funny reactions since you got involved in all of this. What was the most memorable?
Well, in the beginning, it was just so odd when people heard that I was opening a ping-pong club; everyone wanted to write about it. But it turns out that a lot of people in the biz are actually very good and enthusiastic players - Edward Norton, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler and Matthew Broderick, just to name a few.
This SPiN club looks like it will be a little different from some of the others you have opened (note the gold table). How involved do you get in the planning and what special arrangements did you make for the UAE?
We try to keep the SPiN brand and philosophy alive while adapting the actual physical plant to the unique space and culture of each location. That means understanding, through the eyes and taste of our partners, what is best for each club. We have certain formulas for success but interpret that through the demands and preferences of each locale. SPiN is an experiential restaurant/bar/night club. This is our first gold table and I think the first in the world.
Favourite ping-pong move?
Haven't found one yet.
Despite her enthusiasm for ping-pong, Sarandon has said she's doesn't play enough to have much in the way of skills: "Alas, Sarandon was marked absent when the gods handed out the gift of hand-eye co-ordination," a Guardian writer observed earlier this year. "It would be fair to say she misses as many shots as she hits." Sarandon admitted: "I'm just not very good at it."
Shoes on or off?
Singles or doubles?
In your opinion, can you play a real game with one of those at-the-dining-room-table kits?
If you have consumed the necessary amount of tequila.
How did this SPiN Dubai come about?
We were approached, as we are, by many people in many countries and cities. But they followed through and we helped them as much as we could.
And why Dubai? You haven't finished conquering North America with your SPiN clubs.
Dubai is such an interesting futuristic city and ping-pong works everywhere - so why not Dubai?
Are you going to show us your moves on May 1?