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Joan Luther, longtime restaurant publicist, passes on [Updated]

June 7, 2011 | 11:39 am

Joan Joan Luther, a longtime restaurant publicist who began her career at the Brown Derby and Hollywood Park in the late '40s and has done work for nearly every major chef in Los Angeles since then, died Monday at age 83.

[Updated at 4:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this post reported that Luther was 82.]

"She was a legend," said Alain Giraud, former chef of Bastide, the erstwhile West Hollywood restaurant that was owned by commercial director Joe Pytka. "She knew everybody in town. She had something more than just connecting press with restaurants. She understood the vibe of L.A."

She started in publicity in 1948 at the Derby, then worked at Hollywood Park racetrack for 25 years. The list of restaurants she helped promote is long: Mastro's, the Grill, Kate Mantilini, Rocca's, Bastide.... Luther, who worked from an office in her Beverly Hills home, also had a hand in opening restaurants such as Michel Richard Patisserie and California Pizza Kitchen in the '80s.   

"The thing that makes Luther successful," former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl told Los Angeles Magazine in 2004, "is that she's just an unstoppable steamroller in her job." 

Luther is survived by her husband of 64 years, Charles William "Bill" Luther.

A Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 501 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills.

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