Mike Senatore says he knows his fame will only last three or four more days, but man, this is fun.
Throughout the hallways of Ardrey Kell and across the Internet, Senatore is now known as the guy who flipped the water bottle. He even appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Friday.
Senatore, 18, was participating in the senior talent show Tuesday morning where he performed a feat that would eventually melt the Internet. Beautiful in its simplicity, Senatore crept up to a table on stage, calmly flipped a partially full water bottle, landed it upright on the table and walked away.
There are multiple videos taken from different angles that have spread across the Internet, so it’s hard to know exactly how many times his trick has been viewed. A conservative estimate would be 100,000 times, but a young man standing in Ardrey Kell’s front office scoffed when I said that.
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“More like hundreds of thousands,” he said.
When I met Senatore Wednesday, he shook my hand and took me to the auditorium where he became famous.
“All I wanted to do was flip a bottle,” Senatore said.
The bottle-flipping started last year during a chemistry class.
Bored, Senatore flipped a bottle and landed it upright. He didn’t know he could actually do that.
So that continued. When things are slow at the Auto Bell where he works, he’ll flip bottles to keep his mind busy.
Once, he said, he flipped a bottle and got it to land upright 30 times in a row.
Senatore was one of the most popular students at Ardrey Kell before his newfound fame.
“He’s one of the most school spirited individuals we’ve had here,” Ardrey Kell principal David Switzer said. “The ball games, events, dances. It’s nice to see the positive things that kids do. He’s real spirited, dresses up all the time, was a student leader over the years. He’s got a great spirit about him.”
Senatore admits he’s not great at sports and says he doesn’t have many talents, but he’s long known what he was going to do at the talent show. His mom was even told people at a relative’s graduation party last week that he planned on doing the trick.
“I actually had the idea for about the whole year – I’m going to flip the bottle at the talent show,” he said. “I want to be in the talent show, and it’s the one thing I can do.”
On Monday he practiced a bit before realizing he needed some kind of apparatus to land the bottle on. A regular table wouldn’t do, and the plans he had to use a friend’s stool fell through.
He went to a neighbor’s house around 10 p.m. Monday, borrowed a black TV dinner tray and took it to school the next morning.
The stage is set
The talent show started around 9 a.m. and about eight people went before Senatore. The person before him played the guitar so well that most of the 650 students in the auditorium waved their phone’s flashlight in the air like fans at a concert.
When it was his turn, he queued up Jorge Quintero’s 300 Violin Orchestra, plugged in the auxiliary cord and went to stage left.
He crept toward the middle of the stage, but he thought he was going too quickly.
“I’m running to the table and realizing ... I’m getting there way too fast,” he said. “So I turn a little, and then I realize I’m still going to get there way too fast.”
If you didn’t know the story, you’d think Senatore was a master showman. Any illusionist knows the buildup to a card trick is as important as, if not more than, the reveal.
Senatore’s back-and-forth, matched up to the building beat, adds to the anticipation. He gets in position but realizes he’s too far away so he steps up. He stands tall. He flips the bottle in the quiet and it lands upright.
“At that point I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking,” Senatore said.
An eruption happens around him. Students are going crazy. Principal Switzer is at the top of the auditorium high-fiving students. Senatore walked off the stage with a finger in the air, and once behind the curtain gave several fist pumps.
“Oh, I was freaking out,” Senatore said. “I didn’t expect the reaction.”
How did he do it?
First, know this: You can’t just flip any old bottle.
“I can flip most bottles,” Senatore said, “but if I’m going to flip it and feel confident about it, it’s going to be Deer Park.”
The 16.9-ounce Deer Park water bottles have an hourglass-like shape to them. Senatore counts to what he calls the “third divot” in the bottle, below the hourglass indentations and fills the water to there.
A full bottle will be too hard and just bounce around. An empty bottle will be too light and flutter.
But fill it to the third divot and you’re money.
“If you asked me to do it in front of a couple thousand people I don’t know if I could hit it again,” he said.
An overnight sensation
How long does it take to become an internet sensation? In Senatore’s case, it happened overnight.
He and his friend Wesley Manning were in English class when Manning said he was going to upload the video to Twitter. Senatore wanted to post it, but Manning, who filmed it, beat him to it.
A senior with early release, Senatore left school around 12:30 p.m. and went to work. He was sent home after an hour because business was slow and went home to play basketball with some friends.
By mid-afternoon, Manning’s tweet was up to 2,000 favorites. By the time he got into bed his phone notifications were blowing up. Vine star Jack Johnson picked it up. Even a popular Will Ferrell parody account posted it.
On Wednesday morning Senatore was on several popular sports websites. His friends are petitioning to get him on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“All these sites I would dream to be on,” Senatore said. “It’s blowing my mind.”
This fall Senatore will go to the University of South Carolina and major in political science.
He’s a courteous fella who, while shocked by his fame, understands the moment for what it is.
Does he know that he could always be known as the water bottle guy?
“I mean I hope not,” he said. “Well, I kind of do. It’s cool and awesome, but it’s only Twitter fame.
“I can’t imagine it’s going to get bigger than this, as if my whole life is based on flipping bottles. I’m still just focused on college. It’s the end of senior year so I get to enjoy all of it.”