When Iran finally decided, last week, to call off the hit against Salman Rushdie, moderate and fair-minded people around the world dared to wonder, would the embattled writer at last come out of hiding? When New Yorkers heard, they dared to wonder, would he at last stop going out every night?
“The first time he came we were all paranoid that something horrible would happen,” says Howard Schaffer, general manager of B Bar, where Rushdie could often be seen. “He was never protected in any manner or form. He’d talk to semi-celebs at other tables. It was like he wanted to be seen.”
During the later years of the fatwah, every gossip column in town spotted him at Balthazar, Citron, or Della Femina’s, hanging out with rock stars and models. “He seemed completely at ease,” says Kirsten LaBue, assistant manager of Nick & Toni’s, where Rushdie recently dined unprotected. “I guess he can walk into Muslim temples now,” adds Schaffer. “Or at least he can come to restaurants in a cab.”