Salman Rushdie's book Joseph Anton: A Memoir was recently published by Random House, and it contains a lot of juicy intel about model and current Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi (they were married for a few years). The book tracks his fatwa years after he published The Satanic Verses in 1989. On the Padma side, the memoir tracks Rushdie leaving his wife for "an American of Indian origin who had grand ambitions and secret plans that had nothing to do with the fulfillment of his deepest needs."
The book goes into detail about their tumultuous relationship; he is at times harsh in his language when writing about her, citing her "frequent moodiness" that was "unpredictable and extreme," her "capacity for brattish 'model behavior,'" and her "majestic narcissism." He also talks about her ending up on the cover of the French Playboy back in 2000 and how she had to hire a French lawyer because "she wanted to be paid for it." (The cover is below, sort of NSFW.) Rushdie, who reveals Padma's original name as Padmalakshmi Vaidyanathan, wrote in his journal that "selfishness is her most prominent characteristic." Here now, eleven things you didn't know:
1) On their first meeting: "[H]e came face-to-face with Padma Lakshmi and at once he realized he'd seen her before, or her picture anyway, in an Italian magazine in which he, too, had been featured, and he remembered thinking, 'If I ever meet this girl my goose is cooked.'"
2) On Padma's real name: "Her name was an oddity, one name broken into two by her mother's divorce. She had been born Padmalakshmi Vaidyanathan in Delhi... but her father, Vaidyanathan, had abandoned her and her mother, Vijayalakshmi, when she was one year old. Vijayalakshmi promptly discarded her ex-husband's name, bisecting her own name and her daughter's instead."
3) On the "bad" inside Padma: Rushdie got into a "great quarrel" with his then-wife Elizabeth West, and ran off to New York to see Padma. She told him, "There's a bad me inside me and when she comes out she just takes whatever she wants." Writes Rushdie: "She was ambitious in a way that often obliterated feeling."
4) On a possible role in a film by Portuguese producer Paulo Branco and directed by Raúl Ruiz: "'But you're not a singer,' he said, and she lost her temper. 'I'm taking singing lessons,' she said. 'My coach says I have real potential.'"
5) After they were spotted running around together in New York City: "He woke up one morning to find a full-length photograph of Padma on page one of the Post, and beside her, below a small inset picture of himself, was the headline, in letters two inches high, TO DIE FOR... And the next day in the same newspaper there was a cartoon in which his face was seen through the crosshairs of a sniper's rifle. The caption read, DON'T BE SILLY, PADMA, THOSE KOOKY IRANIANS WOULD NEVER COME AFTER ME IN NEW YORK... Now she was scared. Her picture had been in all the papers in the world and she felt vulnerable, she said."
6) On the "deliberate policy of being seen in public": "There would be no more 'hiding.' He would eat at Balthazar, Da Silvano and Nobu, he would go to movie screenings and book launches and be seen enjoying himself at late-night hot spots such as Moomba, at which Padma was well known."
7) On acquiescing to the lifestyle: "And in spite of her frequent moodiness, her capacity for brattish "model behavior," and her not infrequent coldness toward him, Padma, to her great credit, agreed that this was how he should live, and was prepared to stand next to him while he did so..."
8) When they lived together: "She was capable of saying things of such majestic narcissism that he didn't know whether to bury his head in his hands or applaud. When the Indian movie star Aishwarya Rai was named the most beautiful Indian woman in the world in some glossy magazine or other, for example, Padma announced, in a room full of people, that she had "serious issues with that." Her moodiness was unpredictable and extreme."
9) On Padma in Playboy: "French Playboy found nude photographs of her and ran one on the cover, calling her his 'fiancée.' She didn't care about the words and she didn't mind the picture being there, but she wanted to be paid for it, and he had to hire a French lawyer to work for her. This is what I'm doing now, he thought, bewildered. My girlfriend is on the cover of Playboy in the nude and I'm negotiating the fee."
10) On September 11th, Rushdie was in Houston on a book tour. Air travel was a standstill, but he reached out to her: "He called Padma in Los Angeles to say he was coming to see her. She said she was doing a lingerie shoot."
11) Rushdie took Padma to the Vanity Fair dinner and party on the day of the Academy Awards: "[H]e watched her pose and pirouette for the human wall of screaming photographers, burning with the bright flame of her youth and beauty, he looked at the expression on her face and suddenly thought, She's having sex, sex with hundreds of men at the same time, and they don't even get to touch her, there's no way any actual man can compete with that. And in the end he lost her, yes, but it was better to lose one's illusions and live in the knowledge that the world was real, and that no woman could make it what he wanted it to be. That was up to him."