Real life is a lot funnier than anything you can make up. Consider the recent breakup of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, a Hollywood couple revered for sticking together for 20 years and smashing the movie-star stereotype of fornicate today and separate tomorrow.
Though they never got married, they raised a couple of kids, now nearly adults, and were the very image of mature love. What’s more, Miss Sarandon was at least a decade older than Mr. Robbins, and their December-May relationship, which reversed the usual ratio of male geezer and barely ripened female hottie, was confirmation of their deep and abiding love.
Now the story (initially denied by Miss Sarandon’s publicist) is that the 63-yearold actress has dumped Mr. Robbins, age 51, and taken up with Jonathan Bricklin, age 31. This is funny enough all by itself. An over-the-hill and sexually voracious matron throwing herself at a young stud has been a staple of comedy from the dawning of civilization. What makes it even funnier is that Mr. Bricklin—a rich boy who lives on his rich dad’s money—gained fame for throwing “naked ping-pong” parties at his chic TriBeCa loft in Manhattan.
Naked ping-pong! The year was coming to another depressing conclusion until the news about naked ping-pong hit the front page. There were, to be sure, a few scattered moments of comic relief during the past year—the Balloon Boy saga, Orrin Hatch’s Hanukkah song, Sarah Palin’s resignation speech, the Octomom, Tiger’s plural girlfriends (Jamie Grubbs! Porn stars! Pancake House waitresses!) Michael Jackson’s funeral, Jason Chaffetz’s obsession with people wanting to see him naked, etc.
But naked ping-pong! It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You can spend many happy hours imagining all the permutations of naked ping-pong—especially with Susan Sarandon, who became famous for rubbing lemon juice all over her naked breasts in Atlantic City. Watch her lunge to retrieve a deep forehand or leap for a game-ending overhead smash. Can we please have an instant replay of her pausing to wipe sweat from her person after a particularly hardfought point?
A few questions naturally occur to the impartial observer, or maybe even to the ping-pong enthusiast: Are the ping-pong players naked right from the beginning, or do they relinquish various items of their sporting apparel as the game progresses, sort of like strip poker? Are spectators required to disrobe to enjoy the match, or is it strictly clothing-optional?
Up till now, the only association of nakedness and ping-pong had to do with Tijuana strippers. Now, naked ping-pong has moved uptown, and Miss Sarandon and the young Mr. Bricklin have become its impresarios. The two hit it off, it seems, when Miss Sarandon became an investor in Mr. Bricklin’s ping-pong emporium, called Spin, in the Flatiron district. It’s not clear at what point in time the two parties took their ping-pong business from the boardroom to the boudoir, nor do we know whether they took their paddles with them.
Susan Sarandon’s giving Tim Robbins the old heave-ho to pursue a life of naked ping-pong with a fella half her age has temporarily (perhaps) knocked the Tiger Woods scandal off the front page. Tiger might at this moment be scowling his Tiger scowl and muttering to close associates, “See, other famous people can behave like fools. Why isn’t everybody piling on her like they did with me?” Well, let’s wait and see what happens. It largely depends on whether more naked ping-pong players come forward with text-messages or incriminating photos.
The laughter might turn to headwagging and moral outrage if incriminating photos surface of Miss Sarandon and Mr. Woods playing naked golf. And everyone knows that golf is not funny.
If Tiger were a famous ping-pong player instead of a famous golfer, there wouldn’t be a fraction of the moral outrage. Pingpong exists in the dimension of comedy, while golf, as scholars have long recognized, partakes of tragedy: pity, terror and heroic failure. Rightly or wrongly, and probably wrongly, people elevated Tiger to an impossibly high position, and his fall was inevitable. And now he is more pathetic than tragic. Only his party gals are funny.
Meanwhile, Miss Sarandon’s excursion into naked ping-pong is a truer emblem of our trivial age than Mr. Woods’ multiple dalliances. Everyone now is speculating on whether he can somehow redeem himself in the public eye. Will all be forgotten if he wins the Masters’? Or flogs himself on the 18th green?
My advice to him:
Take up ping-pong.