BETSIE FREEMAN Omaha World-Herald
OMAHA – In the late 1960s, a guy was driving across the country to deliver a huge beef statue to a buyer out west.
About the time he arrived in Omaha, he learned that the deal to sell him had gone sour.
Being a quick thinker, he stopped at a local restaurant known for its beef and found another buyer. And the 14-foot-long steer has been living at Anthony’s Steakhouse ever since.
“It was quite a marketing tool,” said Tony Fucinaro Jr., whose father bought the statue. “It was on a trailer and he took it to parades. Then he decided that was enough and put it on the building.
At the top of the building, to be exact, where for more than 50 years he has stared sternly at anyone who passes by the steakhouse at 72nd and L streets.
The Fucinaros closed Anthony’s in January, leaving the steer virtually homeless.
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But not for long. It is up for grabs by the highest bidder, with proceeds going to an Omaha charity, Scare Away Cancer.
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The steer is the centerpiece of an online auction that began days ago and ends June 27, said Rod Backes, owner of Backes Commercial Auctioneers in Raymond, Iowa, with his brother.
Monday’s late afternoon bid was $4,800. Backes said around 300 people have registered for the auction so far and he expects more to join.
The auction includes a huge amount of items from the restaurant’s great kitchen, along with assorted memorabilia.
But the bovine, shall we say, runs the show.
“It’s probably the most popular individual item,” Backes said. “People all over the Midwest are commenting on it on Facebook.”
Many dream of putting it in their own yard or plotting to place it on someone else’s property.
“Can you just bring that on your visit?” one person asked a friend.
Another tagged a few pals: “You all need this for the ranch,” he said.
A Nevada resident even got in on the act.
“It would make a real statement in my backyard in Las Vegas,” he said.
Another poster suggested that anyone who buys it should donate it to the Durham Museum.
Scare Away Cancer, the non-profit organization that will benefit from the sale, helps families financially when children or their parents have cancer.
It was born out of an effort by Tony Jr. to help an employee at his company when she had breast cancer. He is the general manager of MCL Construction in Omaha.
Fucinaro and his co-workers surprised the sick wife with a fundraising Halloween party in 2010. It was such a great time that they decided to make it an annual event.
Since then, the group has helped hundreds of families within a 50-mile radius of Omaha with house payments, groceries, cars and other necessities. It is entirely run by volunteers.
“We hit $1 million last year,” Fucinaro said.
Tony Sr. said he had many inquiries about the fate of the beef since he closed the restaurant. He also said many people have made the mistake of calling him a cow over the years.
“Let’s call it a steer,” he told this reporter when she made that mistake.
“To quote my father,” he laughs, “you can’t milk him if he’s a steer.”
Because there has been so much interest in the statue, both now and throughout the restaurant’s tenure, he wanted to do the right thing with it.
“And it’s a great charity,” Tony Sr. said of his son’s effort. “I hope (the management) will contribute a lot.”
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