The non-relationship relationship broke up in February, according to the tabloids, and Panettiere says she's single. But soon after our lunch, photographs surface of the 19-year-old getting her back oiled on a yacht on the French Riviera by the 32-year-old Welsh TV personality Steve Jones, who's been romantically linked to Pamela Anderson and Halle Berry. There have been times when the media scrutiny was more than she could take. "It's turned my life upside down and shaken it," Panettiere says, referring to the incident in August 2008 in which her father was accused of hitting her mother and later charged with misdemeanor battery. Her father called it a misunderstanding, saying, "Nothing actually happened," then pleaded no contest. "It was very tough, especially since it's my family," Panettiere says. "It's one thing if you do it to me. I get frustrated, but I can handle it. But when it involves my family, my friends, forget itI lose my . . . " Panettiere pausesthen regains control. "I learned the game. The more I react, the angrier I get, the more satisfaction they get. That's exactly what they want."
As Panettiere drains her bowl of soup, two young Orthodox Jewish men who have been circling in front of the restaurant finally come inside, holding cameras. "Excuse me. I'm sorry, I know this is extremely rude, but we're from the East Coast and you're the first famous person we've met. Is there any way I would be able to get a picture of you?"
"You don't want to meet famous people."
"If it's possible, please," the guy says. Panettiere puts down her spoon, and as they awkwardly drape their arms around her, she gives the camera a practiced look.
"Thank you so much. Thank you. I'm sorry," they say as they back out of the restaurant, already reviewing the images on the camera.
"I gave them a half-smile," she says matter-of-factly. "It's a survival skill."