When we saw reports of Susan Sarandon hanging out at the opening of the High Line roller skating rink this summer, we immediately wanted to do two things. First, we wanted to go check out the rink — which we did (hey, celebrity endorsements work!). The second? Chat with the 64-year-old Sarandon, a Chelsea resident who prefers downtown to uptown, and is an outspoken devotee of the city. So, how did the High Line relationship happen?
“I just loved when they approached me about supporting the High Line,” she told us by phone last week, in a conversation ranging from her Jackson Heights childhood to cycling in the city and parks, ping-pong, and her dogs. “I love finding ways to use things that have been around for a while. Maybe that’s something you develop as you get older and you yourself want to keep being used.”
That’s not something we think Sarandon has to worry about. Highlights from our chat, after the jump.
On her childhood in the city:
I grew up in Jackson Heights until there were too many of us to deal with that — I’m the oldest of nine. Then my dad, who worked in the city, moved us to New Jersey. I went to grammar school and high school in New Jersey. After college I moved back here. I was born in New York and I raised my kids in New York. I consider myself a New Yorker.
I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to make these kites made out of brown paper that we flew in a lot in Jackson Heights. We used to chalk up the sidewalks and play hopscotch and stuff like that. We didn’t have any money. When I was doing Romance & Cigarettes with John Turturro, I went back, called my mom, and asked, “What was the exact address of our apartment building?” Of course that lot was gone. I used to love to ride the train with my mom — I remember thinking the subway was really cool.
When we get off the phone I have a wardrobe fitting, but then I’m going to go bicycling with one of my sons down the bike path on the West Side, which is another favorite thing. I love going all the way down into Battery Park and seeing the Tom Otterness, going down to the very tip and eating at the great Italian restaurant down there. When I’m in times of trouble, as the Beatles would say, I walk down the West Side — that whole path along the river at midnight or 11:30 at night, and it’s been lit and people are out, especially in the summer, with music — and I feel perfectly safe.
On the parks:
I love the way that they are now planting in the parks, which is so much wilder and kind of more indigenous stuff, instead of it being so manicured. Bette Midler is just the biggest hero ever in my eyes. She’s worked to plant so many trees and save a lot of the parks and clean up the waterways up in the north of the city. It’s really, really special.
On ping-pong and the club she co-owns, SPiN New York:
I love to go to SPiN, which is a ping-pong club, bar, and restaurant. It encompasses a wonderful thing about New York, which is the diversity. Ping-pong cuts across age and gender and color, and it’s not expensive. I love going there and seeing — especially on Friday nights when we have our big, funny tournaments, theatrical tournaments — all the people that come in from all over the city starting at 10 in the morning straight until 2 or 4 in the morning, depending on the day. That’s another place where I really see New York. The club is below ground. It used to be a Woolworth’s, and you could enter from the train, so we actually have a huge window that looks onto the arriving trains at 23rd and Park.
Her favorite outdoor activity:
My favorite outdoor activity besides going to SPiN and walking the High Line is just walking on the streets. The thing I miss in other cities when they are not as user-friendly and eccentric as New York is the serendipity, the maximizing of the chance encounter with a museum or an art display or a film. I love happening upon a pop-up museum or a pop-up store or people juggling in one of the parks.
My kids used to all be going to school on the other side of Union Square, so we’d go through there a lot. There’s always music and art and something happening. Or Washington Square Park, you’ll go by and there will be theater happening, street theater. I would never be able to plan all the various things that you encounter just by walking.
Her favorite indoor activity:
In addition to ping-pong, probably going to films and finding all those little quirky things, or walking around galleries. The museums are incredible in New York.
On her dogs:
One’s a Pomeranian-poodle and one’s a Pomeranian-Maltese. One of them has done a lot of films and TV with me, because she’s very chill and will just sit there during a scene or follow me out or follow me in. She has a fairly huge resume now. Her name is Penny. I cut her in a very unorthodox fashion. A guy asked me the other day if she had grooming issues, and I said no, I guess I have grooming issues. I cut her hair in a very choppy kind of way. The other one, Rigby, I don’t take as much on location because she has a tendency to eat everything and anything, including cigarettes, any kind of medication, any kind of illegal substance, chocolate. So it makes me a little nervous to take her out any farther away from the emergency room to a strange city. They love New York.