The atmosphere shifted the moment he arrived on set. The studio lights were bright, but his presence was blinding.
You know that look that cartoon characters get when they’re really, really hungry, and everything around them turns into giant cakes and ice cream sundaes? That look of pure wonder and infatuation? That was me when Bucky Badger arrived for the Badger Insider Spring cover shoot.
He strutted up the stairs with a punctuated swagger. My co-workers issued various Awws and How cutes before returning to business. A celebrity photo shoot of this sort was nothing new to them. (Check your BI covers — Bucky’s on every one of them.) I, on the other hand, was experiencing the most intimate encounter I could imagine with the BBOC (Big Badger On Campus).
As it was my second day on the job, I attempted to keep my cool. I like to think I gave an air that this was just another day at the office. But really, I felt like every tween in America did when the Beatles got off the plane at JFK.
The concept for the shoot: Bucky on a date. It will be the cover art for our spring feature “Blushing Badgers,” in which we highlight readers’ campus love stories. We wanted the illusion of a romantic restaurant, but in a controlled environment. Thanks to the inventive minds of photographers Chris and Natalie Paskus, we created our very own intimate setting inside their home studio.
While Bucky primped, the rest of us got to work creating our “restaurant.” We set the table, arranged the flowers, and poured a glass of non-alcoholic wine — what says “romantic” more than a glass of fermented grape juice?
When Bucky strutted up the stairs (cue “aww”; cue star-struck newbie), he paused, covered his mouth with his hands, and shook his big, furry head. He pointed at the “wine,” looked at us, looked back at the glass, then drew his finger across his neck.
“You … you can’t have the wine?” asked Caroline, our marketing coordinator.
“It’s nonalcoholic!” said John, BI’s editor.
Bucky covered his eyes and shook his head. We quickly removed the glass, and he gave us a thumbs-up.
Once the camera started flashing, Bucky was a complete ham. He wooed the photographer. He tried to eat the giant chocolate prop heart. He propped himself up on one elbow and held a rose between his teeth.
“Oh, my gosh, this would be his Tinder picture,” Caroline giggled. Bucky perked up at this comment, slowly turned to face her, and made a slow-motion “swipe right” motion with his paw.
“Maybe we should have one of the girls in the shot?” Chris suggested to the team.
OH MY GOD, I thought, PICK ME, PICK ME, I VOLUNTEER AS A TRIBUTE.
“That might be cute,” I responded with a shrug. I offered up one of my rings as a prop — maybe this is a pop-the-question date. Bucky took the ring, got down on one knee, and stared deeply into the camera’s lens.
Chris announced that he had the shot and was done, but Bucky wasn’t. Still clutching the ring, he pointed to Caroline, then pointed to the chair. She shuffled over and sat. Bucky dropped to one knee, and offered her the ring.
She said yes.