At 8 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday last month, Salman Rushdie strode into Junoon, a Flatiron district restaurant where 90 people awaited his arrival, some sipping chamomile-infused vodka cocktails. Mr. Rushdie, the Indian-born British author, was the guest of honor at a dinner sponsored by Dom Pérignon and Booktrack, the maker of an app that synchronizes music to e-books.
It was the second party that night for Mr. Rushdie, 64, who earlier in the evening could be found chatting with Diane Von Furstenberg at a downtown show for the artist Ouattara Watts, hosted by Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, one of his gallerists.
At Junoon, after plates of baby eggplant and lamb were scraped clean, Mr. Rushdie grabbed an iPad and read aloud his short story In the South, which appeared in The New Yorker in 2009 and which Booktrack had scored to original music played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. After he finished, Mr. Rushdie approached a long-legged, slim brunet woman sitting at the end of a long table. "How did I do?" Mr. Rushdie asked. She cooed over the recitation, and he thanked her for coming. As he walked away, she turned to a fellow partygoer. "It's nice to see him out, isn't it?" she said.
Perhaps a more apt question would be: where haven't New Yorkers seen Mr. Rushdie lately?
Nearly 25 years after the publication of The Satanic Verses, which forced Mr. Rushdie into hiding for a decade after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the novel and issued a fatwa calling for his death, Mr. Rushdie has emerged as an indefatigable presence on the New York night-life scene.
In January he was spotted with Francesco Clemente, the painter and a close friend, at an art opening in Chelsea for the artist Victor Matthews. Weeks earlier, Mr. Rushdie hosted a book event at Vermilion, an Indian-Latin restaurant he invested in, and where, in January, the flash-sales Web site Gilt City offered a $95 six-course dinner promotion that included a signed copy of one of Mr. Rushdie's books. Mr. Rushdie was a host of a soiree at Del Posto with the singer Michael Stipe for the Lunchbox Fund, a charity founded by Topaz Page-Green, a former model and Mr. Rushdie's longtime pal. His interest in popular culture seems vast, including fashion (last September he was spotted in the front row of the Theyskens's Theory spring 2012 show), theater (months earlier he attended opening night of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark") and film (he popped up at Vanity Fair's party at the Tribeca Film Festival last April).
Indeed, Mr. Rushdie, the author of 16 books who has lived mostly near Union Square for 12 years, has himself begun writing a script for a series for Showtime that will be set in contemporary New York. "I think he enjoys the speed of New York," said David Nevins, Showtime's president for entertainment. "He likes the diversity of the city and the in-your-face-ness."
Mr. Rushdie initially agreed to be interviewed for this article, but Barbara Fillon, deputy publicity director at Random House, which is publishing his memoirs this fall, later said in an e-mail that he would not be available.
Friends, though, attribute Mr. Rushdie's ubiquity to his curiosity and sense of refuge in a welcoming town. "To fully be able to breathe, to be in New York, he feels safe," said Deepa Mehta, a friend and director of the coming film "Midnight's Children," which is based on Mr. Rushdie's 1981 novel, which won the Booker Prize. (Mr. Rushdie is also writing the script.) "It's freedom. This is a person happy to be alive."
Mr. Rushdie is hardly the first famous author to revel in the city's night life. From Truman Capote in the 1950s and '60s, to Norman Mailer in the '70s and '80s, mingling with members of high society has long been an integral part of literary celebrity.
But Mr. Rushdie's relentless public presence is notable not only because it flouts the edict against him from more restrictive parts of the world, but also because it occurs precisely at a moment when many of New York's most successful writers appear to lead lives of domestic tranquility in Brooklyn.
"The day of the writer as public character is greatly diminished," said Mort Janklow, the veteran literary agent. "Writers are more professional. You don't hear about feuds. You don't see the most prolific writers out."
Like Mr. Mailer, who had six wives, Mr. Rushdie, who has married four times (most recently to the "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, whom he was divorced from in 2007), has developed something of a reputation as a ladies' man. "Anytime you see him he is with two or three beautiful women," said Graydon Carter, a friend and the editor in chief of Vanity Fair, who owns the Waverly Inn restaurant, which Mr. Rushdie frequents. "He's one of my best customers. You wouldn't think a writer would be my best customer."
Mr. Rushdie's first marriage, in 1976, to the literary agent Clarissa Luard, ended in 1987. His next two wives were also involved in the book world; Marianne Wiggins is an author, and Mr. Rushdie's third wife, Elizabeth West, was a book editor. But perhaps his most scrutinized relationship was with Ms. Lakshmi, a former model and sometime actress to whom he was married for four years. Since their split, he has been linked to a number of attractive young women.
Friends say he once dated Michelle Barish, the socialite and former wife of the nightclub promoter Chris Barish. The actress Pia Glenn has spoken publicly of a relationship with Mr. Rushdie. And last November, Devorah Rose, an aspiring reality television actress and magazine editor who chronicles society in the Hamptons, posted a photograph on Twitter of her and the author at dinner. "Great times w @SalmanRushdie," Ms. Rose tweeted. "Come back to the states soon so that we can have a do-over."
What followed between Ms. Rose and Mr. Rushdie was catnip for gossips. Mr. Rushdie told The Post that Ms. Rose was a casual acquaintance. Ms. Rose shot back that Mr. Rushdie pursued her romantically, and provided messages he sent her on Facebook for publication on the gossip Web site Scallywagandvagabond.com, according to the site.
Unlike many other intellectuals of his generation who confine their Internet outings to announcements of readings and perhaps a staid eponymous Web site, Mr. Rushdie has embraced social media with the vigor of a giddy teenager, amassing more than 246,000 followers on Twitter, setting up a Tumblr account where he sometimes posts his writing, and engaging so animatedly with Facebook that he clashed with the company when it insisted he use his given name, Ahmed Rushdie, for his profile. (Mr. Rushdie prevailed.)
Deepika Bahri, a friend and an associate professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, where Mr. Rushdie is a distinguished writer in residence, said that Mr. Rushdie was game for interacting online with any person or subject, highbrow or low. "I don't think it really matters to him," Ms. Bahri said, when asked how such behavior might affect public perception. "He does not fear or have concern about what people think or what it will do to his literary reputation."
Still, he seems to expect a certain civility. Mr. Rushdie blocked a Twitter follower last month after the follower made a cutting remark about having read one of Mr. Rushdie's books in high school. "Discourtesy not tolerated here," Mr. Rushdie wrote in a tweet. "Your parents need to teach you your manners."
Last year, a post about Philip Roth devolved into a question from a follower about Kim Kardashian's divorce from her basketball player husband, Kris Humphries. Mr. Rushdie wryly responded with a limerick, writing in three tweets, "The marriage of poor kim #kardashian was crushed like a kar in a krashian. Her kris kried, not fair! Why kan't I keep my share? But kardashian fell kleen outa fashian."
To Mr. Rushdie, such platforms are not just new ways to show his talents, but offer liberation of a sort, friends said. "He talks about being reborn digitally," Ms. Bahri said. When Mr. Rushdie was asked about his interest in social media at Junoon in February, he said: "I like reaching a new audience. The dialogue is invigorating."
Certainly, whatever social gyrations occur in cyberspace or on the town, Mr. Rushdie has clung to his literary cachet - no small feat, as Mr. Janklow, the agent, pointed out: "It's hard to be a great social figure and a great writer."
The author is still very much in demand as a speaker at conferences. In January, he canceled a trip to India to talk at the Jaipur Literature Festival because potential threats left him worried about his safety. But Mr. Rushdie returned to India this month to attend the India Today Conclave in New Delhi. And his memoirs are highly anticipated; he is expected to chronicle his years in hiding after the fatwa was issued.
"Salman is still in the mix and part of culture and conversation," said Mr. Carter of Vanity Fair.
Ms. Page-Green courted Mr. Rushdie years ago to join the advisory board of the Lunchbox Fund. She said she asked him to host last Wednesday's book fair and fund-raiser because he not only would create awareness for her charity, but would also invite his famous friends. "He's obviously literary, and the event is tied to that," she said.
Brooke Geahan, vice president of publishing for Booktrack, met Mr. Rushdie seven years ago at a poetry reading. Ms. Geahan, who has held many splashy parties for writers as founder of the Accompanied Literary Society, approached the author about using a story of his for Booktrack and, later, asked him to read at Junoon. "He's very generous," Ms. Geahan said.
Booktrack executives said they hoped that Mr. Rushdie's participation (and the publicity surrounding it) would attract other esteemed contemporary authors; thus far, their Web site offers only 14 titles.
That didn't seem to matter, though, at Junoon, where guests offered Mr. Rushdie their congratulations and bravos, inquiring where they might hear him read again.
Mr. Rushdie beamed. He was one of the last to leave the party.
This article first appeared HERE.