Regardless of whether there was truth behind any of the talk, the gossip was seen by many as irresistible proof that beneath Ray's perky exterior there pulses a twisted heart of darkness. But if tonight's show at the Annex is any indicator, the rumors of trouble in paradise are groundlessCusimano wields his own unique power over his wife. As he performs what he describes as "rock and roll with a punk edge"strutting around onstage and executing an endearingly earnest dive into the drum setRay appears enchanted. She shakes her hips, yelps, buys drinks for friends, blows her husband kisses (she has her cell phone set to play "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters whenever Cusimano calls). At one point Cusimano prefaces a song with a little story of connubial bliss: "So the other day I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my wifeI think you all know who she is (hi, honey!)and anyway, we were sitting there and this song came on and she said, 'God, that's beautiful, who is that?' and I was like, 'It's Elton John,' and anyway" he looks adoringly at his wife"this song is for you, honey." After a rendition of "High Flying Bird" that brings to mind a hardworking wedding band, Ray runs toward the stage and wraps her arms around him.
"I love you, honey!" she says, and plants a kiss on his lips.
Cusimano and Ray live in a downtown Manhattan apartment that is notably modest for a woman Forbes estimates earns $6 million a year. "Rachael would kill me if she knew I was showing you the place this messy," Cusimano says one afternoon while giving a tour of the four very narrow floors; the place has the feel of multiple studio apartments stacked on top of each other. He shows off what he calls "our Vegas room" (a nook with a card table and poker chips), the roof deck ("great for martinis in the summer"), and one of the bathrooms, which is Asian-themed, with glass tiles ("Rachael let me pick the design"). Finally, there is the kitchena startlingly minuscule one. "People are always shocked that our kitchen is so small," Cusimano says, tapping a mini-fridge that looks like it belongs in a dorm room. "They think, Rachael Ray is a big-time chef! How can she work like this? But you know what? This is all she needs. It's amazing what she can do in here. She cooks us dinner most nights. She likes nothing better than to be in her pajamas, cooking, with a glass of wine, at home with her dog. It helps her relax."
In the sun-splashed living room, Cusimano points out a framed poster for Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her, signed by the Spanish director. "Almodóvar is her favorite director," he says, adding that his first "alone date" with Ray was going to see the movie. (The first date, he explains, was a group one that included Ray's mother and several close family friends: "It was straight out of The Godfather, basically.")