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Father Guido Sarducci gives blessing to namesake mascot

DNovello as Father Guido Sarducci.  |  Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci. | Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Updated: May 19, 2013 2:20AM

The fruitless campaign to rename Guido the Ram — Grayslake Central High School’s mascot — is being celebrated by the man for whom the ram is named: comedian Don Novello, a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci.

“I’m very happy. Tell the kids out there thanks for all the support. I’m honored,” Novello said by phone this week, weighing in after reading about the would-be name change via

Grayslake Central officials floated the idea of ditching Guido earlier this year through social media, launching a Twitter account (@RenameTheRam) in February and inviting the community to submit new ideas on the school’s Web page. There were suggestions like “Graham,” “Rammy” and “Sparty the Ram” — and backlash started almost immediately.

“What if we change YOUR name?” read a protest sign posted in the school hallways that ended up being Tweeted with the hashtag #TeamGuido. “Save Guido’s identity. Vote to save Guido.”

At a March 8 rally, the mascot emerged in his now-traditional green jersey bearing both the No. 1 and the name Guido. You can count Novello among those who doesn’t see the name as a slur against Italian-Americans in the first place.

“I see how that got started out in New Jersey,” he said, referring to the influence of the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore.” “But I don’t take it as a negative thing. ... I don’t think it’s a bad thing any more than ‘Vito.’”

According to his website, father
, Novello first brought his alter ego into the spotlight nearly 40 years ago, fashioning him as “a chain-smoking priest with tinted eyeglasses (who) worked in the United States as gossip columnist and rock critic for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and, later, as assistant managing editor for The Vatican Enquirer.”

The salad days began in May 1978, when Father Guido first appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” ruminating on a prospective papal encyclical titled “Life, It’s a Job.” He would rack up 16 appearances through December 1981, primarily on “Weekend Update,” and weigh in with reunion-style visits for special occasions like a 1993 episode hosted by fellow “SNL” alum Bill Murray.

Father Guido’s legacy in the entertainment world extends beyond “SNL,” seeing him pop up from time to time on everything from “Married with Children” in 1995 to “The Colbert Report” in 2010. Novello said that recent developments in Vatican City brought his old friend out of seclusion once more.

“I didn’t get over there, but I did get a lot of calls from (media hosts) looking for a comment,” he said. “Whenever the pope dies, my career gets a little boost.”

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