t nine fifteen, Rihanna’s black Escalade pulls up in front of Emilio’s Ballato, Andy Warhol’s Nolita Italian restaurant of choice, a circus in tow. Her army of bodyguards surveys the scene. Then one of Rihanna’s long legs hits the pavement and it’s madness. There are paparazzi everywhere, all at once, perching on bicycles and European motorbikes, firing out of Mercedes-Benz windows and SUV sunroofs, pushing in on every square foot of sidewalk. The cameras strobe around her like a Ferris wheel.
Rihanna glides through the melee and into the foyer, where her signed photograph hangs. She’s sporting skintight black jeans, black shades, a black cutoff designer sweatshirt with oversize gold letters. (ORIGINAL, it says.) With her dahlia-shade lips, big anime eyes, and slow-motion strut, she looks like some neo-noir femme fatale en route to her next hit.
“That was intense,” I stammer, emerging from the whiteout of flashes and the theatrics of Rihanna arrives at dinner.
“I guess you’re used to it by now. But my heart kind of…”
“You’re never used to it,” she says. “It’s chaos.”