Spin City? Ping-Pong-trepreneurs Try TV, Franchises

sarandon 1 getty Spin City? Ping Pong trepreneurs Try TV, FranchisesFranck Raharinosy (the prince of Madagascar) and Jonathan Bricklin, partners in SPiN New York, the Ping-Pong social club on East 23rd Street, have been taking meetings with TV networks to shop a reality show about their club.

“It will focus on some of the interesting personalities in table tennis and the growing of our business,” said Mr. Bricklin by phone the other day. “It will be a quirky, funny show.” A reality show? “We don’t think the word ‘reality’ really represents what we want to do. We’re calling it a documentary series.”

“It will be the renaissance of Ping-Pong,” said Mr. Raharinosy, who was also on the line.

“We want it to be smart,” continued Mr. Bricklin. “We don’t want it to be degrading like a reality show and because Susan [Sarandon, an investor] is involved, a lot of open doors have presented themselves.” The pair is working with International Creative Management to package the show, but they haven’t signed with a network yet. Mr. Bricklin said he’s hoping for someone like MTV or HBO. “Or like the Sundance channel or Discovery,” interjected Mr. Raharinosy.

“It’s like a comical drama and the real-life personalities behind this funny world,” said Mr. Bricklin. These personalities, he said, might include Korean Ping-Pong player and model Soo Yeon Lee; Wally Green, “the hip-hop rapping Ping-Pong player”; Marty Reisman, the 1958 U.S. men’s singles champion; and Michael Landers, the 15-year-old U.S. national Ping-Pong champion who already trains at SPiN. “Susan will be on the show occasionally, and she’s willing to narrate the show,” Mr. Bricklin continued. “And Franck and I will be portrayed growing the business and traveling to open new locations.” According to Mr. Raharinosy and Mr. Bricklin, they have been contacted by folks wanting to open SPiN franchises in Milwaukee, Phoenix, Dallas, Iowa, Colorado, Miami, Shanghai, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Moscow and Istanbul. But for now, the only other location they are working on opening is a Los Angeles outpost this summer. (The exact space hasn’t yet been finalized.)
“We want Ping-Pong to be a national scholastic sport on high school and junior high school level and professional sport on TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future, Ping-Pong clubs replace pool halls,” said TK.

Meanwhile, the six-month-old club’s celebrity attendance hasn’t dropped off. In recent weeks, actors Jamie Foxx, Alan Cumming, Liev Shreiber and Kelly Preston have dropped by (all separately), and there was what Mr. Bricklin described as a “drunken Ping-Pong night” with Mel Gibson, and another evening with “the girl with eight kids.” He said it was the Octomom, but his publicist later corrected him and said it was in fact Kate Gosselin.

As for the 31-year-old Mr. Bricklin’s rumored relationship with Ms. Sarandon, 63, who not long ago announced her split from actor Tim Robbins, he denied this but in a rather lengthy answer: “She’s here all the time and she’s actually going to all the meetings with us all the time. She’s really enjoying the entrepreneurial side of business and truly has become one of our partners. She’s amazing and I’m so lucky to be her business partner. We have a great relationship. I’ve gone on trips with her to meet with Ping-Pong players, and she has been extremely generous with her time. She’s one of my closest friends now. But as far as a romantic relationship, we are not having one. I’m flattered people think that we might be.”