PING-PONG PASSION

A story sure to inspire. At 72-years-old, a rock and roll publicist propels to fame through her new passion for ping pong.

Aired on June 14, 2018; August 26, 2019 and January 1, 2020.

TRANSCRIPT

> SHE IS A ROCK 'N' ROLL PUBLICIST WHO IT TURNING THE TABLE ON PING-PONG, PROVING IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO GET INTO THE GAME.

AT 73 YEARS YOUNG, COMPETITIVE TABLE TENNIS PLAYER CAROL CLEP NER IS BREAKING ALL THE RULES.

AFTER A SUCCESSFUL CLEAR AS A PUBLICIST FOR LEGENDARY ACTS LIKE THE WHO, DAVID BOWIE AND ROLLING STONES SHE WAS NO STRANGER TO THE GOOD LIFE.

BUT IN 2009 THAT LIFE TOOK A TURN FOR THE WORSE.

SHE LOST HER JOB, HUSBAND AND HOME.

SHE FELT ISOLATE AND ALONE UNTIL ONE DAY WATCHING A DOCUMENTARY PINK UPON ON PBS SHE DISCOVERED A WORLD OF PLAY WITHIN A TIGHT KNIT COMMUNITY OF ECLECTIC NEW YORKERS.

TO A LOT OF PEOPLE TABLE TEN SIS LIKE A PHYSICAL CHESS.

IT'S NOT JUST THE EXERCISE ALTHOUGH IT'S THE EXERCISE.

IT'S ALSO THE MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

WHEN I'M PLAYING PING-PONG, I GET IN THE ZONE.

AND IT REMINDS ME OF BEING A KID AGAIN.

THE NOTION OF PLAY IS SUPERENJOYABLE.

AND FOR ME NOW PLAY I THINK IS MOST UNDERRATED FOUR-LETTER WORD.

I FOUND MYSELF AFTER THE GREAT RECESSION, AFTER THE DEATH OF MY HUSBAND, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS I DO?

WHAT DO I LIKE WHEN I'M BY MYSELF?

SO I WAS OUT OF A JOB, A WIDOW, LIVING IN A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO TO MAKE MONEY.

AND I -- I ALMOST REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHO I WAS.

THE LONG MARRIAGE IS -- IT'S ALMOST 40 YEARS.

AND I SAW A DOCUMENTARY ON CHANNEL 13 CALLED PING-PONG.

IT FOCUSED ON FOUR PLAYERS, FROM 80 TO 100 YEARS OLD.

AND THEY WERE NOT PLAYING JUST FOR GOLD MEDALS.

THEY WERE PLAYING TO STAY ALIVE, TO FEEL LIFE.

I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, THERE IS A SPORT WITH A FUTURE.

IT OPENS A NEW WORLD TO ME.

I SAW THAT I HAD SOME POTENTIAL.

I HAD BEEN ATHLETIC AS A KID.

AND I THOUGHT I COULD GET BETTER AT THIS.

I'M GOING TO TAKE LESSONS.

NOTHING I'D RATHER BE DOING.

THIS IS FUN.

I GOT IN WITH A GROUP OF PEOPLE MY AGE APPROXIMATELY.

AND WE PLAYED TWICE A WEEK.

THROUGH THEM I STARTED PLAYING MORE AND MORE GOING TO TOURNAMENTS, PLAYING AT THE NATIONALS IN LAS VEGAS AND LEARNING TO COMPETE, WHICH FOR ME, AS A WOMAN OF MY GENERATION, NO, YOU WIN.

GO AHEAD.

IT'S OKAY IF YOU WIN.

YOU KNOW.

I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO EMBRACE WINNING.

THE WHO, THE POINTER SISTERS, JETTING ROW TULL DAVID BOWIE.

I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF WORKING ROCK 'N' ROLL WHEN EVERY KID IN AMERICA WANTED TO WORK IN ROCK 'N' ROLL.

IT WAS ALICE COOPER.

MY HUSBAND, RON BELCHN E.R.

ABTHE FAMOUS ROCK 'N' ROLL PROMPTER AND ME THAT'S WHAT I USED TO LOOK LIKE.

I STARTED IN PR BEFORE THAT BECAUSE I SAW WOMEN WERE THE HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS.

I THOUGHT SIMILAR TO PING-PONG, THAT'S A JOB WITH THE FUTURE.

I COULD BECOME A HEAD OF A DEPARTMENT.

HERE 'I' WITH ELTON JOHN.

AND HE PLAYED CARNEGIE HALL.

THIS IS BACK STAGE AT CARNEGIE HALL.

I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF WORKING ON THE 1972 STONES TOUR RIGHT THERE AND ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT GOT THE LIMITED EDITION STONES TEE SHIRT.

THEY ONLY MADE 32 I THINK.

AND ON THE BACK YOU CAN SEE WHAT IT SAYS.

SO THEY WERE PERSONALIZED, EACH ONE.

I HAVE BEEN OFFERED $5,000 FOR IT.

AND I'M NOT SELLING.

BACK IN THOSE DAYS IN THE EARLY 70s, BACK STAGE WAS A MAN'S WORLD.

AND MY CLAIM TO FAME -- AND I ALWAYS TOLD MY DAUGHTERS THAT IT TOO -- WAS THAT I COULD TALK MY WAY BACK STAGE.

EVEN IF MY NAME WASN'T ON THE LIST.

AND THE WAY I WAS ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THAT WAS BY BEING FOCUSED STRONG AND PERSISTENT.

I DIDN'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.

IT'S BEEN AN INTERESTING CAREER.

AND I GOT TO BE IN THAT SPACE AT THE MOST EXCITING TIME.

SO I TRY TO GET THIS IN FOUR TIMES A WE CAN.

IT'S LIKE THE TEMPLE OF TABLE TENNIS IN MANHATTAN.

RIGHT NOW I'M SITTING IN THE PRIVATE ROOM AT SPIN WHICH IS A PLACE WE SOMETIMES HAVE MEETINGS FOR THE AMERICAN YOUTH TABLE TENNIS ORGANIZATION, WHICH HELPS KIDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN YORK.

WE BASICALLY CREATE PROGRAMS WHERE IF CHILDREN IN A SCHOOL CAN MEET AND PLAY LOCALLY.

GET LESSONS FROM A COACH WHO CAN TEACH THEM THE PROPER WAY OF HOLDING THE PADDLE, LEARN THE RULES.

WE GET FEEDBACK ALL THE TIME IT'S GREAT FOR THE KIDS, THAT THE CHILDREN BEFORE THEY TOOK UP PING-PONG WERE QUIET, LACKING SELF-CONFIDENCE.

I'VE BEEN TOLD THIS BY PRINCIPALS, TABLE TENNIS HELPED STUDENTS GET BETTER.

I WENT TO THE FINALS THIS YEAR.

AND IT WAS PRETTY IMPRESSIVE.

WHICH FINAL WERE THEY, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

THE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

AND THESE KIDS WERE REALLY GOOD.

AND THERE WERE LOTS OF THEM.

LOTS OF GIRLS.

THERE IS WHAT MORE THAN 50% GIRLS.

ONE OF NICE THINGS ABOUT THE SPORT IS THAT IT'S ONE OF THE BETTER SPORTS FOR WOMEN TO PLAY.

AND CHOOSE WHETHER YOU WANT TO GO BACKHAND OR FOREHAND.

TABLE TENNIS OPENED AN AMAZING NEW WORLD TO ME OF MUCH MORE FUN WAY OF WORKING OUT, A GREAT NEW ARRAY OF NEW FRIENDS.

IT'S A WELCOMING FORUM.

PEOPLE ARE VERY GENEROUS.

INCLUSIVE AND KIND.

THE NICEST PEOPLE.

DIVERSE.

YES.

WHEN I CAME BACK FROM THE NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES, I RESOLVED THAT THIS IS IT, IF NOT NOW WE?

TIME IS NOT INFINITE.

AND I WENT FOR IT.

I'M DEFINITELY IMPROVING.

I WANT TO INCREASE MY RATING.

I'D LIKE TO BREAK A THOUSAND WHICH I THINK IS DOABLE.

IF I COULD GET OUT OF MY HEAD IN COMPETITIONS THAT I WOULD BE ABLE TO. I AM JUST GRATEFUL THAT I CAN STILL PLAY THAT I AM STILL GETTING BETTER. AS LONG AS I CAN STILL PLAY, I'M DOING IT!

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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