|Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie|
Padma Lakshmi dishes out details of her sexually demanding marriage to Salman Rushdie, tragic loss of her IMG CEO lover and a bitter custody battle in memoir
BY LARRY MCSHANENEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, March 5, 2016, 4:29 PM
“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi recalls her years with author Salman Rushdie as a once beautiful meal that ultimately left her with mood poisoning.
The stunningly beautiful Lakshmi, in her new memoir “Love, Loss, and What We Ate,” serves up the hot, steaming dish about the egotistical writer.
The ever-demanding Rushdie needed constant care and feeding — not to mention frequent sex, according to the book.
And Lakshmi wrote that Rushdie was callously insensitive to a medical condition that made intercourse painful for her. Rushdie once became so enraged by her rejection of his overtures that he denounced Lakshmi as a "bad investment," she wrote.
When her undiagnosed endometriosis diminished Lakshmi’s sex drive, the unsympathetic Rushdie became furious that she was unavailable for the fevered, urgent intimacy they'd once enjoyed, according to the book.
Their May-December romance began when she was a struggling model-actress and Rushdie already a global symbol of free speech after the Muslim backlash against his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Lakshmi was 28 and single, Rushdie was 51 and married to his third wife. A bit part in Mariah Carey's disastrous 2001 movie "Glitter" was the apex of Padma’s big screen acting career.
The pair first met in 1999 at a party. On their first real date — Rushdie initially wooed her by phone since she lived in Los Angeles — the pair fell into bed.
“At 3 a.m., I woke with a start. I'm naked in a married man's bed," she thought before sneaking out of the hotel room.
They were wed in 2004, and divorced three years later.
After Rushdie left his wife, their next few years were idyllic. The couple lived half the year in London to be close to his two sons. In Manhattan, they restored his townhouse to Gilded Age glory.
Rushdie brought her breakfast in bed every morning before she bolted off to the gym.
Lakshmi became comfortable with his friends, "literary giants" like Susan Sontag and Don DeLillo, by preparing feasts for them. At parties, people would breathlessly ask what it was like to live with a man so brilliant.
It was blissful, she writes. And then it wasn't.
For one thing, her career was taking off. She had already appeared in two shows on the Food Network when Andy Cohen called from Bravo. "Top Chef," with master chef Tom Coliccihio, was in its second season. He wanted her to join the cast.
Newsweek then put her on the cover illustrating a story about the “New India.”
"The only time Newsweek put me on their cover was when someone was trying to put a bullet in my head," came Rushdie's less-than-enthusiastic reaction.
Each year when the Nobel Prize went to another writer, Rushdie took it hard. Lakshmi would console him.
Then came her medical condition, which took too long to properly diagnose. Eventually, Lakshmi would undergo more than one surgery to treat her severe ailment.
According to Lakshmi, Rushdie appeared more worried about himself.
When Lakshmi said no to sex because of the pain, the author would reply, “How convenient.” Their arguments escalated, with Rushdie as "lethally eloquent" in battle as in print.
Rushdie was often away. After one five-hour surgery, Lakshmi came home with stitches in four major organs and stents in both kidneys. Rushdie left the next day for a trip.
"The show must go on, after all," he said on this way out the door, according to Lakshmi.
Lakshmi’s first post-op trip out of the house was to a divorce lawyer.
The troubles in her next serious relationship were all of her own making. Ted Forstmann, the billionaire CEO of the global sports and media empire IMG, had previously dated Princess Diana.
Life with Forstmann was definitely an upgrade for Lakshmi. In 2009, for example, he asked where she would most want to travel on a fantasy food tour. Lakshmi named the two most exclusive restaurants in the world.
Soon after, the couple was dining at the legendary elBulli in Rosa, Spain, followed by Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark.
But Lakshmi didn't want to settle down so soon after her marriage ended. Back in the day, when modeling in Milan and Paris, she indulged in some bacchanalian evenings where she “acted out my curiosities and fantasies.”
"Some I regret, but not all, like knowing what it's like to touch and be touched by a woman," she writes.
While those days were in the past, Lakshmi didn’t see her future in an exclusive relationship with another much older man. Forstmann was 30 years her senior.
While still seeing Forstmann, Lakshmi took up with Adam Dell — a venture capitalist and brother of Michael, the founder of the eponymous computer company.
It was only after Dell returned to Texas that Lakshmi learned she was pregnant with his child. She had wanted a baby for so long, but this wasn't entirely happy news.
Forstmann, who had waited out her affair with Dell, became enraged when Lakshmi told him he might not be father. She was terrified that she might have squandered his love.
When a paternity test proved the baby wasn't his, Forstmann pleaded with Lakshmi not to involve Dell, she wrote. The lifelong bachelor, who had adopted two boys he met in an South African orphanage in the ‘90s, promised to support the child as his own.
But Lakshmi felt Dell had a right to know. She writes that she was fully willing to involve him, but Dell kept his distance through much of her high-risk pregnancy.
Forstmann was in the room for the C-section, and handed Lakshmi her baby daughter, Krishna, on Feb. 20, 2010.
Dell appeared to stage a scene in Lakshmi's room. She remembers crying and asking him not to yell. He was furious that his name wasn't on the birth certificate, pacing "ominously" at her bedside for hours, Lakshmi wrote.
Hospital security subsequently escorted the infant to another room to visit with her father.
Later, when Dell came to New York, Lakshmi sent Krishna to visit her father in the arms of her own mother — accompanied by a security guard.
A custody battle ensued. Forstmann warned Lakshmi that things would get ugly, but offered his unending support.
Not long after, he started exhibiting symptoms that would lead to an eventual diagnosis of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.
Forstmann suddenly had only months to live.
Lakshmi, who was filming "Top Chef" in Florida, flew back to be with Forstmann at his Southampton, L.I., mansion as often as possible. She remembers how Krishna and he endlessly amused each other.
On her last visit before his Nov. 20, 2011, death, the toddler crawled on his bed while dressed as a lion for Halloween. Forstmann could barely open his eyes, but their last words to each other were "I love you."
She soon settled the custody issue by agreeing to amend Krishna's last name to "Lakshmi-Dell." The three have since shared some lovely times together.
According to news reports, Forstmann's will established a trust for Krishna — and so he, too, remains a part of their lives.
It's not a perfect ending by any measure, but certainly a new beginning for Lakshmi and her little girl.