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Bull’s Best Friend

Lorax for a loaded symbol.

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On a frigid morning last week, Arthur Piccolo—chairman of the Bowling Green Association, taurophile—stood on the east side of lower Broadway, watching tourists wait their turn to touch the bronze crown of the Wall Street bull. He was displeased. “This is the single most famous animal sculpture in New York City,” said Piccolo, who is in his early fifties and has a dark beard and restless eyes. “No, let me correct myself. This is the single most famous animal sculpture in the world, in history. And it’s being caged.” As Occupy Wall Street began, the police erected barricades around the statue, formally known as Charging Bull, and had only recently started letting in visitors in small groups. Piccolo, as the bull’s self-appointed guardian, made it his cause to set the sculpture free.

Piccolo was working nearby when the sculpture’s creator, Arturo DiModica, installed it beneath a 60-foot Christmas tree on Broad Street under cover of night in December 1989. The next afternoon, Piccolo was on hand when a contractor hauled the sculpture away, at the request of New York Stock Exchange officials. To Piccolo, this seemed, in a word, bullheaded—the sculpture, he recalled recently, “was the most marvelous present you could wish for.” The next day, he tracked down DiModica and arranged to have the bull moved to its permanent home.

In the years since, Piccolo has seen the bull visited by all manner of aesthetic violence. During a particularly raucous St. Patrick’s Day, drunken revelers painted the bull’s scrotum—tumescent, impressively rotund—in hues of green, white, and orange. In 2010, the artist Olek, who works in “yarn-bombing,” completely covered the sculpture in crochet. Piccolo cut off the strings himself, with “the biggest pair of scissors I could find.” But nothing in his memory has done as much damage to the image of the bull as the metal barricades. Behind the temporary fence, the crowd of tourists was swelling.

The French word for “testicles” was overheard.

Piccolo continued talking.

“Would you put these barricades around the Statue of Liberty?” he asked. “How about St. Patrick’s Cathedral?”

Four Italian men, wearing puff jackets and oversize sunglasses, sauntered up to the sculpture. The largest vaulted onto the back of the bull’s head and gave a couple of pelvic thrusts. “People get very enthusiastic,” Piccolo said.

Piccolo rolled back his sleeve, exposing a watch emblazoned with an image of the bull. “Arturo gave it to me,” he said sheepishly. “Can we go inside? It’s getting cold.”

In his office, Piccolo reached into a cardboard box near his desk and produced a stack of papers. The Magical Christmas Bull at Bowling Green, read the cover (subtitle: Where Fantasy and Reality Collide to Save Christmas As Charging Bull Comes Alive). For years, Piccolo had pitched a bull-related animated movie. Finally, he self-published a kids’ book instead.

In The Magical Christmas Bull, Santa’s reindeer have fallen ill, and a group of magic spirits bring the bull to life; soon, the animal is carting a large group of little children around the globe. By the end of the book, the children have grown up, died, and come back as spirits themselves.

“It’s like A Christmas Carol, by Dickens,” Piccolo explained. “But more magical.”

He reclined in his chair. “I have a very intimate relationship with the bull,” he said.

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