Susan Sarandon Talks Politics and Ping Pong

Ever wanted to play ping pong under a giant replica of a whale? That’s what Susan Sarandon did last night.

Niteside caught up with the Academy Award-winning actress at the American Museum of Natural History, where she was participating in a program called “This is Your Brain on Ping Pong.” The event took place in the Hall of Ocean Life, where a 94-foot-long blue whale model hangs from the ceiling. It featured a panel discussion about the intellectual benefits of the game, and ping pong tables were set up so attendees could play themselves.

Sarandon was involved because she is a co-owner of SPiN, a ping pong club located in the Flatiron District that she opened more than a year ago.

“It’s been fabulous,” she said. “We’re learning how to run a club, and in the meantime we’re franchising. There’s one already open in Milwaukee and a little one in LA, and it looks like we’re going to go into Miami and Toronto next.”

Sarandon never expected to become interested in ping pong, but took to it quickly.

“It’s a really good form of exercise, and you can’t hurt yourself," she said. "It cuts across gender, age, body type -- everything.”

But finding an opportunity to play can sometimes be difficult, she said.

“The irony is that we thought we’d all be playing so much more because we had our own club, but in fact we’re so busy running it that we haven’t had enough time to play ourselves,” she said

The famously political star had plenty to say about current events, including the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and many others in Arizona.

“When the Constitution guaranteed you the right to bear arms, they were talking about muskets. If [the shooter] had arrived on the scene with a musket, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to do what he did,” she said.

She also echoed many who have pointed to the use of violent rhetoric by commentators and politicians as a potential factor in the shootings.

“I think a lot of the hate jocks that are on the radio and on TV are full of misinformation, and they appeal to the lowest common denominator. They know how to incite a crowd,” she said. “We need to have a discussion of the issues, and not just inflammatory rhetoric.”

Sarandon, who had been active in relief efforts immediately after the earthquake in Haiti, also reflected on the progress—or lack thereof—that she has seen in that country. The one-year anniversary of the earthquake passed last week.

“I think Haiti has kind of fallen off the radar, and there’s so much yet to be done,” she said. “This cholera epidemic is very, very serious, and it’s so sad because Haiti had no infrastructure before the quake. I hope that journalists keep putting it in the news so that people will pay attention.”

As for the reappearance of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the Haitian dictator who was overthrown in 1986 but suddenly returned to the country this week, Sarandon said, “I don’t know what he was thinking. I have no idea why he came back or what’s going to happen.”

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