Joan Luther, called by some the first lady of restaurant PR in Los Angeles, died yesterday. She began with the Brown Derby in the 1940s, says the L.A. Times. Colleague Dan Cox has posted an appreciation, saying "She knew everyone. And everyone knew Joan. She launched an entire industry and tutored many of those that now call hospitality public relations their career, including myself." Here's an excerpt from Dave Gardetta's 2004 profile of Luther in Los Angeles magazine:
Luther likes to hear about food more than she likes to eat it. Ruth Reichl, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, swears that in 25 years of meetings she has never seen Luther eat lunch, and Colman Andrews—who edits Saveur and has known Luther since he was a teenager, when she was a staple at his parents' Brentwood parties—believes Luther might live on nothing but meat and coffee. Such profound reserve near prepared food would be of no interest if Luther herself were not a restaurant professional. She is, in fact, a publicist for chefs and restaurant owners. Not many people realize that chefs, like actors, hire PR agents, but in L.A., where dozens upon dozens of restaurants open or go broke every year, chefs need all the press they can get.
Andrews's suspicions about Luther's diet may be true. I love listening to her describe the glories of the flesh. "Oh, I'm beefy all right," she told me one night. Luther was sitting in a Beverly Hills steak house, sipping coffee and waiting for a 22-ounce rib eye, which, on arrival, proved to be about the size of her head. "Meat, meat, meat. I'm not a big sauce girl. I don't like fish. Soup? No. I like a good old-fashioned T-bone! Lamb chops—English, very expensive, and all that fat! I like fat. I used to eat porterhouse—a difficult steak, too chewy Now I like a rib eye, on the bone—I have to have that bone—and all the fat. Mmm. I don't eat butter, I don't eat cheese, and you have to get your oils someplace. I'll eat chicken. Or turkey! I love all the goop. I'm a cruncher. All that skin and those little tiny bones to crunch? Mmm. I guess I just like impact."