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Find the popes in the pizza*

Beach 4, August 2009

Since I quit watching TV I’m prone to some offthewall free associations as the withdrawals compete with general nostalgia for my off-hour attentions. The late seventies, in particular, when I was first and at long last finally able to stay up as late as I wanted. The main point of staying up late as I saw it at the time was, of course, TV. Late night horror, adult humor, etc- all the great forbidden stuff. Nothing breeds interest like restriction. There seemed to be so much promise bound up in this new freedom and those that would follow- made the richer and more alluring and exotic due to the fact that I didn’t understand most of what I saw.

In any case, it’s always startling how much reflexive associations can color a moment- in this instance the thought of Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci on Saturday Night Live even as I was composing the shot. It seemed such a preemptive satire of the shot I was about to take that I almost didn’t bother. Was I heckling myself, or was it just a ricochet of a long-overdue punchline?

I still don’t understand most of what I see and respond to but in the end I’m usually glad I took the shot. I suppose I rely on this to a degree to protect my  interests or even mask any lack of coherent intent, but oh well: ‘Some are easy to find, some are hard. … Here’s a little clue for you. Most of the Popes have red faces…’*

It’s amazing to me all the interest in the Pope last couple weeks. I think it’s because of John Paul’s visit, personally, but, you know, whatever the reason, people are buyin’ these posters that show all of the Popes and people want to know what their names are, what their real names are, when they was livin’, when they died, all that stuff. And, going along with this Papal mania, I’ve kind of designed a contest about the Popes. It’s called “Find the Popes in the Pizza” … All two hundred and fifty-four Popes, they’re in here. … And, what we’re gonna do in about one minute, we’re gonna put a close-up of this on your screen and, you at home, all you have to do is get some, like, wax paper, any kind of paper you can see through and paste it to your screen — or tape it, whatever you want — and all you gotta do is get a pencil and draw a circle around every place you see a picture of a Pope.

Well, I think what I’m gonna do for the prize, whoever wins — you know, finds the most Popes — they’ll get to have a button that I designed myself. I noticed on the tour, the best selling button was this.It says, “I Got a Peek at the Pope” … And I designed a button that I think even more people can relate to. It says, “I saw the Pope on TV” … This is what you win. And now, I think, we’re about ready. So while you’re looking at the pizza for thirty seconds, I’m gonna play a cut from Pius XII’s album. … Here is Pius XII singing “On the Sunny Side of the Street” … And now find the Pope in the pizza. Good luck to you. All two hundred and fifty-four.

-Don Novello, SNL 10/13/79 *