Our collection of photos from Barack Obama's visit to The Sink in Boulder included an absolutely hilarious shot of CU student Madalyn Starkey mugging alongside the Prez -- one so funny that she soon became a major media darling, Internet sensation and memes subject; see examples below. But that doesn't mean her brush with power has turned her into an Obamaholic.
"People might think I might be the voice of Obama," she says, "but I don't think that would be a good idea."
Indeed, Starkey had no plans to see Obama speak at the Coors Events Center on April 24. The topic of his talk -- the potential doubling of student loan rates -- didn't really affect her, since "my parents have worked really hard and paid for my brothers and me to go to college." Besides, she and her boyfriend, James Healey (a native of Australia), already had tickets to a Michael Franti concert at Macky Auditorium. And neither were they initially planning to share a pre-show meal at The Sink. "We'd been there so many times before," she explains. "But then we thought, 'Oh, we'll do it,' and rocked up there."
Minutes after being served their drinks, she recalls, "security guards came in. They gave everyone the option to leave, but they said, 'If you want to meet President Obama, come to the back room, because we have to pat you down and metal-wand you."
She estimates that about twenty people, including employees, were in the restaurant at the time. Once all of them were okayed and The Sink was closed to additional customers, she and Healey returned to their table, which had been stripped of silverware. ("Luckily, we got nachos," she notes.) Then, about half an hour later, Obama and his entourage arrived. "He met the wait staff, the bartenders and the cook, then shook hands with the people at the four tables who were there," she says. "I think we were kind of the last ones, in the back corner. I asked him if we could take a picture, and he said yes, so James took it on my cell phone."
Here's the resulting shot:
Starkey's pose wasn't premeditated, but neither was it unusual. "I don't take a serious picture anytime," she says. "Why do it with him, just because he's the President? We were just having a good time."
Shortly thereafter, Starkey posted the photo online, and within minutes, her friends, many of whom were gathered at Coors awaiting Obama, responded in a big way. "They were blowing up Twitter and Facebook, and someone who retweeted it must have been friends with some newscaster, because then it went wild...."
At the concert, she was inundated with requests to use the photo and interview her, and the barrage took quite a while to ebb. "I didn't sleep for pretty much two days," she says. "It was constant -- people wanting to meet up, going to interviews. It was miserable."
Well, not completely. Plenty of amusing moments cropped up, including an AllBuffs.com post featuring doctored version of the Obama-Starkey photo, including this one:
"They put me on Mount Rushmore, too!" she says, laughing.
The most awkward moment? "The interview with CNN," she replies. "They asked me if I was going to vote for Obama, and I just sat there for a minute and then said, 'I don't think I want to say on national TV.'"
As for declaring her presidential preference now, she again defers, although she admits that "people could probably guess."
Earlier this week, Starkey had a nightmare about the media onslaught, although she thinks the reason was preparation for a satirical video she and friends are putting together about the experience; she hopes it'll be finished in the next week or two.
In the meantime, she says the photo and its aftermath added up to "a really awesome experience -- and I think it might help when I graduate college. I can put it on my résumé!"
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More from our News archive: "Photos: Obama wins as many votes by visiting The Sink as talking at CU-Boulder."