Monday, December 1, 2014

Ping Pongin' With the Stars: A Celebrity Table Tennis Primer

As a kid, the fam and I had a Ping Pong table in our basement. I actually got pretty kick ass at the sport by the time I moved away from home. I haven't played the game since then, though truth be told, I think there might have been a game or two played and forgotten over the intervening years, but I still find the idea of table tennis, or as my people call it, Ping Pong, to be quite fascinating. Originating back in the 19th Century, the game was "invented" by British soldiers, who brought it back from India, or at least that's how the story goes - and they're sticking to it. The sport was something rich people played as a parlour game. Ping Pong, as a name, was trademarked in 1901 in the UK, and later sold to Parker Brothers in the US, sometime during the 1920's. That's right, much like the Frisbee and the Hula Hoop, Ping Pong is a trademarked name. All others must use the term table tennis. Actually, I believe this trademark has since faded away, but hey, Ping Pong it is. It also once was nick-named wiff-waff, but that one never quite caught on. Eventually the sport would join the Olympic roster, becoming an official competitive Olympic sport at the 1988 Games. But I did not come here today to spout off about the history of Ping Pong. My reasoning behind this post, as is more than alluded to in the title of said post, is to talk about the popularity of the sport amongst the artistic elite of the world. Strangely enough, or possibly not that strange after all, there are a slew of celebrity Ping Pong pictures ping ponging around on that world wide web thingee. How cool do Bogie & Bacall look hanging out at their Ping Pong parlour. Yeah, I know, Bogie & Bacall always look cool, but now they are cool and Ping Pongers. Well, at least they have the table. I haven't ever seen a shot of the couple actually playing the game. But I digress. There are many more stars who Ping the Pong. So why don't we look at a few of 'em. Let's start with a couple of Ping Pong playing classic Hollywood beauties.

That's right kids. Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth were ping pong connoisseurs. There are actually a bunch of different pics of Audrey playin' the Pong, sometimes as a singles player, other times as a doubles partner with hubby, Mel Ferrer. Meanwhile, the lovely Miss Hayworth did a whole ping pong photo shoot on the patio of her Brentwood home. But, these beauties aside, it isn't just old Hollywood that had the Ping Ponging frenzy. Some rather groovy members of the music industry (or maybe anti-industry) caught some of that fever as well.

Yup, both Frank Zappa and David Bowie played the Pong as well. There are actually a few different pics of Bowie playin' the pong, but when one has the option of including a picture of David Bowie playing Ping Pong in a kimono and sunglasses, well one must surely go for it. But hey, Bowie and Zappa aren't the only rock icons to make this post. Check out the shots below. Now that's some star table tennis power.

That's right gang. The Beatles, apparently playing quadruples Ping Pong, and then Bob Dylan and Levon Helm playing some Pong in the rec area of a firehouse. Really, nothing more needs to be said on that subject. Seriously, I have no more to say on the Fab Four and Dylan & The Band (at least a Band member) gettin' their respective Pong on. A picture (or two) is worth that proverbial 1000 words, and all that. So, why not travel back to old Hollywood again.

So here we are back in that oh so Golden Age of Movies, with this trio of glamorous Ping Pong playing ladies. And in case you did not already know, this trio consists of Olivia de Havilland, Janet Gaynor, and Joan Crawford. Now I don't know if any of these ladies ever played together, but considering the sexual preferences of Janet and Joanie (one gay, one bi), there could have been some interplay. But I digress. Get my mind out of the gutter! Anyhoo, these three lovelies from waaay back just go to prove that Hollywood once loved their Ping Pong. Here are some more pics to prove this love.

Yeah, from little Shirley Temple to Gene Kelly to Jimmy Dean, Hollywood certainly loved their Ping Pong. There is a ton more photographic evidence that proves this theory. From Ginger Rogers to Ida Lupino to Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Charlie Chaplin, Bebe Daniels, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. There are also more modern celebs, such as Susan Sarandon, Vince Vaughn, Judah Friedlander, Mickey Rourke, Kate Middleton, and the President and First Lady as well. Even Stanley Kubrick got into it for his Lolita actors, overseeing James Mason and Peter Sellers practicing the Pong, but then this was probably just practice for their Ping Pong scene in the film.

But hey, enough of these Hollywood stars and musical icons, for even the big wigs of world politics have gotten into the game. Sure, according to Bobby Z, Forrest Gump has played Mao Zedong in a few rousing games of table tennis, but back in reality (a place I tend to consider lesser to the make-believe artifice of cinema, but that's another story for another day) -- yeah, back in reality, Mao has been seen with a Pong racket in his hand, as has good ole Fidel Castro. One Ping Pong table, two despots, no waiting. Oh, and yes, musical icon that he may be, one could easily consider Bob Marley to be a political figure in a way, as well. That's why he is here with Mao and Castro. Well, that and the fact that I found this trio already put together in a Google image search. I like how he seems to be laughing at his political opponents.

I could go on and on. This post could be epic in length if I posted every ping pong playing star and/or starlet I could find a photo of, but let's not do that. I mean, we all have other things to do. Though reading my blog should be at the top of that list. Ha! Anyhoo, let me close us out with Shazam and Cyborg getting ready for a match. I don't have a good feeling about that match. We may have ourselves a busted ping pong table on our hands here soon. But enough of this ping pong ponderings. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. Oh those wacky entertainers...and political they love ping pong. Joan Crawford looks like she is ready to destroy her competitor. Funny, I keep thinking of that pussy cat in the newsreel in a M.A.S.H. episode playing ping pong

  2. Not really surprised that "wiff-waff" never made it...

    Great research!

  3. Love table tennis. Used to play with my father a lot and out of the hundreds of games we would play, the total amount of games that I had won you could count on one hand. Still, it was one of the few ways that we bonded.

    Father Nature's Corner

  4. Love me some wiff-waff. Thanx for stopping by, everybody! Se ya 'round the web.

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