Unlikely lothario Salman Rushdie's high-profile love life

The unlikely lothario who basked in the social limelight: Four-times married literary giant Salman Rushdie wooed a string of younger women – despite being excoriated by ex-wife Padma Lakshmi as a spoilt baby who needed constant praise and ‘frequent sex’

  • Novelist Salman Rushdie, 75, has been married and divorced four times
  • His love life received a wave of attention since he came out of hiding 
  • Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses, which sparked a culture war in 1988 in Britain, leading to deadly riots and him being issued a fatwa by Iran
  • He’s been the subject of death threats from the Iranian regime since 1989
  • Rushdie married his first wife, Clarissa Luard, in 1976, and had son Zafar three years later, then divorced in 1987 
  • Rushdie married Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins in 1988 amid his novel’s backlash leading to Wiggins going into hiding after they divorced in 1993 
  • Rushdie went on to marry Elizabeth West in 1994, and the two had a son, Milan, in 1999. The couple divorced in 2004 
  • Rushdie then married model turned Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi in 2004
  • The marriage only lasted three years, with the novelist bemoaning her in his memoir as a ‘bad investment’ who was overly narcissistic and ambitious
  • Lakshmi hit back at Rushdie in her own memoirs, calling him ‘sexually needy’ and insensitive to her endometriosis. They divorced in 2007

Salman Rushdie, who was attacked Friday after decades of death threats, spent recent years basking in the social limelight as he wooed a string of younger women – despite being blasted by one of his four former wives as a spoilt baby who needed constant praise and ‘frequent sex.’

The acclaimed novelist, 75, stirred controversy in his profession with his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ that drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s and forced him into hiding.

But once he emerged from hiding years later, he received a wave attention for his turbulent love life.  

Rushdie has been married and divorced four times and linked to a slew of other women in the years since.

Author Salman Rushdie was attacked as he was being introduced to the stage for the CHQ 2022 event on Friday in New York state

The short union between Rushdie and Lakshmi (right) ended badly, with both insulting each other in their respective memoirs 

The attack happened at an event in Buffalo, New York, where people rushed to assist the author after he appeared to be punched and stabbed, with the motive currently unknown

FIRST WIFE: Clarissa Luard, 1976 to 1987 

Rushdie’s love life began with his first wife, Clarissa Luard, who he met at a pop concert in the UK in 1969. 

Luard, who became senior literature officer at the Arts Council of England, married Rushdie in 1976, and the couple had son Zafar three years later. 

Although they divorced in 1987, they remained close friends, and Rushdie reportedly stayed by her side when she died from breast cancer at age 50 in 1999.

Pictured: Rushdie’s first wife, Clarissa Luard and son Zafar. The two were feared to have been kidnaped or killed following a wave of protests over Rushdie’s writings 

SECOND WIFE: Marianne Wiggins, 1988 to 1993

By the time Luard passed in 1999, Rushdie had already been married twice more. He tied the knot with American Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins in 1988, and then to editor Elizabeth West in 1997. 

Rushdie was with Wiggins when he faced backlash over The Satanic Verses, with Rushdie saying that he heard criticisms that his ‘Jewish wife’ made him write it. 

‘At its most unpleasant it was leveled at me from the Islamic side that the Jews made me do it,’ Rushdie said. ‘They said my [second] wife was Jewish. She wasn’t, she was American.’ 

Rushdie has previously said that he remembers his split from his wife Marianne as being a particularly traumatic time. She claimed that the CIA was aware of Rushdie’s whereabouts and so his cover was blown. When he realized that she was lying he decided to end the relationship.

‘It was very shocking. There simply was a point at which I had to choose whether to be alone in the middle of this hurricane with nobody there for companionship or whether I somehow had to put up with this person in whom it was difficult to have faith.

‘It was horrifying to be told by a policeman that they believed that your wife was lying to you. It is an experience most of us don’t have. And then for her to say that it was the police who were to be blamed and that I shouldn’t trust them sets a kind of mindf*** and I had to make my judgments.

‘It became impossible for me to have faith in her veracity. So in the end I thought it was better to separate.’

Wiggins spent some time in hiding even after the couple divorced in 1993.

Pictured: Rushdie with his second wife, Marianne Wiggins, who married him in 1988

Rushdie was with Wiggins when he faced backlash over The Satanic Verses

Wiggins (left) remained in hiding even after she divorced Rushdie 

THIRD WIFE: Elizabeth West – 1997 to 2004 

Rushdie then married Elizabeth West in 1997, and the two had a son, Milan, in 1999. 

Rushdie had previously said that he and West, an author and editor, began growing apart when he wanted to move to the US and she wanted to stay in the UK and have another child. 

Following a miscarriage, the couple officially split in 2004. 

Rushdie has been married four times, including to Elizabeth West Salman, pictured. The couple married in 1994 and two had a son, Milan, in 1999

FOURTH WIFE: Padma Lakshmi – 2004 to 2007 

Following the split from West, Rushdie immediately dove into the world of pop celebrities, marrying model turned Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi in 2004. 

The two had met back in 1999 at a lavish New York City party thrown by media queen Tina Brown. Lakshmi alleges that the two began their affair during the party, and that Rushdie promised to be with her once his rocky marriage to West concluded.

Rushdie’s 2001 novel, Fury, was dedicated to Lakshmi. At the time of the wedding, Lakshmi was 28, while Rushdie was 51. 

While Rushdie’s previous marriages lasted more than a decade, his union with Lakshmi only lasted three years, with the novelist bemoaning her in his memoir as a ‘bad investment’ who overly narcissistic and ambitious. 

Lakshmi hit back at Rushdie in her own memoirs, calling him ‘sexually needy’ and insensitive to her endometriosis. 

In Rushdie’s 2012 memoir, he claimed Lakshmi ‘broke his heart.’

But, he added, she was also guilty of a driving ambition ‘that often obliterated feeling’, and a ‘majestic narcissism’ that left him unsure ‘whether to bury his head in his hands or applaud.’

He also criticized her ‘frequent moodiness’, ‘brattish ‘model behavior’ ‘ and frequent coldness towards him. And it was she and not he, says Rushdie, who made the advances in their affair after he had resolved to stay faithful to his wife.

Salman Rushdie (right) together with his fourth wife, model and Top Chef host Padma Lakshimi attending the Cannes Film Festival in 2004

Rushdie met Lakshmi (left) back in 1999 at a lavish New York City party thrown by media queen Tina Brown. Lakshmi claimed she had an affair with the still-married man

Rushdie’s 2001 novel, Fury, was dedicated to Lakshmi. At the time of the wedding, Lakshmi was 28, while Rushdie was 51

In Lakshmi’s Love, Loss And What We Ate, she portrays him as an insecure and insensitive spoilt baby, requiring constant praise, feeding and attention, not to mention ‘frequent sex’. 

She claims that the not so gallant knight of the realm was so selfish that instead of showing concern for a serious medical condition that made sexual intercourse painful for her, he dismissed her as a ‘bad investment’.

According to Lakshmi, the early years of their relationship had been blissful.

She was ‘young, star-struck and love-struck’, and Rushdie bought a house in New York where they lived together, splitting their time between Manhattan and London, where he had two children from previous marriages. 

Although he took her tea and toast in bed every morning, she was left in no doubt that he didn’t consider theirs to be a relationship of intellectual equals. For example, despite letting her read newspaper articles he had written, usually while sitting in his lap, she said that ‘anything but my gushing approval would be ignored’.

Intimidated by his erudition, Lakshmi would rehearse funny stories to tell him on her way home. 

As Lakshmi’s endometriosis became worse, with pain so severe it could leave her hunched up in bed for days, she recalls Rushdie assuming she was inventing an excuse for their lack of intimacy.

Denied sex on the night of their second wedding anniversary because she said she was in such pain, he acidly commented: ‘How convenient for you . . . what is it this time?’ Later that night, she had to be rushed to hospital, but even then Rushdie fretted only about his own unsatisfied sexual needs, she says.

As she underwent a series of surgical procedures, in desperation she asked her doctor to ring Rushdie and explain she wasn’t just making excuses.

The marriage continued to deteriorate and they filed for divorce in 2007, little more than three years after they had wed. 

And the exes that got away without a wedding ring on their finger… 

In the months and years following his split form Lakshmi, Rushdie was seen with several beauties, including Bollywood star Riya Sen. 

In 2008, Rushdie was also spotted wooing then-25-year-old Aita Ighodaro, an Oxford-educated journalist, at the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup Polo at Cowdray Park in Sussex. 

That same year, Rushdie attended the annual Washington Correspondents Dinner with actress Oliva Wilde as his date. 

He’s also been linked to actress Rosario Dawson, Topaz Page-Green, a model-turned-charity campaigner, and Melissa ‘Missy’ Brody, a New York socialite. 

Rushdie attributed his intellect and ‘good looks’ for his successful love life, which included dates with Olivia Wilde (left). The two were pictured together at the Washington Correspondents Dinner in 2008

Brody, who reportedly went so far as to become engaged to Rushdie, bears a remarkable resemblance to Padma Lakshmi.

An actress named Pia Glenn, attacked him in 2009 as ‘cowardly, dysfunctional and immature’ after he gave her the push by email.

Glenn, 30 years his junior, said Rushdie had remained obsessed with Lakshmi, and was so self-absorbed that he began most days by putting his name into Google to see what had been written about him. After charming her into bed, Rushdie showed little interest in her beyond sex and parading her in public, she said.

‘If he just wanted sex, he should have gone out and paid a prostitute,’ she said witheringly.

The writer countered that he split up with Glenn because she was ‘unstable’ and ‘carries around a large radioactive bucket of stress wherever she goes’. He dismissed her as a publicity-seeking wannabe.

In 2012, Rushdie has tryst with Devorah Rose, a young New York aspiring socialite he had found through his penchant for flirting on Facebook and Twitter.

But it all unraveled when Rushdie angrily accusing her of over-egging their connection, and Rose returning fire by deriding him as leering and infantile.

For good measure, she published his stream of painfully embarrassing messages to her, such as the not-at-all Nobel-Prize-winning gem: ‘You look so gorgeous and hottt! see you v soon.’

Rushdie later turned up ‘very emotional’ at the party of a former girlfriend, the Manhattan party planner Michelle Barish, and leaving some guests embarrassed by his behavior.

Two days later, he reportedly proposed to her — even though she was technically still married. She turned him down.

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