by Nanci LaGarenne
We lost a legend. A woman in our community who loved Montauk with her whole heart and graced us all at karaoke almost a decade ago, hung on as long as she physically could. We’re going to miss her. That iconic nickname given to her by a family friend, stuck like glue; many people don’t even know her real name. J Diddy, the former Judy Kuneth, was my friend, “Jude.” I met her at Liars Saloon with Carl Darenburg, aka “Dancing Carl,” and a slew of karaoke regulars who became friends, at the only place to be on a Friday night in Montauk if you liked fishermen and loved to sing. Many have a Liars karaoke story, there’s even a book about it, but no one can say they ran for President there. J Diddy did. Circa 2008, I nominated her and she ran unopposed. Was she President of Montauk? Of karaoke? It doesn’t matter, we ran a genuine campaign at Liars and other karaoke hotspots like Gurneys and O’Murphy’s. Her VP was Lola Snow of Lola’s Tattoos. Each week, J Diddy entered Liars to the tune of “Hail To The Chief.” She waved at her fans, decked out in her patriotic colors and ‘J Diddy for President’ banner on her straw hat. “Hail Hail, J Diddy!” Mary the bartender declared.
Everyone loved J Diddy, also known as Dot, Minx, Madam President, and The Goddess of Liars Karaoke. Women were her friends, many of us knowing her during the daylight hours in Amagansett at J Diddy Central, her home, where she welcomed all and sundry for coffee, a swim, a chat, a wine, and a party whether planned or impromptu. Men loved her too. One recalled, “For a grown woman she was adorable.” Another male fan said, “She was a woman who quietly spoke, sang songs with a twinkle in her eye, and was most kind to me.”
J Diddy had her repertoire and Jim the DJ had her songs ready to go. She’d start with “Rockin’ Robin,” go into “Leader of The Pack,” complete with “vroom, vroom,” and come back to sing “Doo Wah Diddy.” The crowd ate it up. What she lacked in height, she made up for with her joyful spirit. One day she said to me, “You know, it’s all about the fun.” That little ditty took off and became her tag line. She even wore a pin with FUN in glitter.
J Diddy wore many hats and not just those sparkly baseball caps and tiaras she wore to karaoke. Judy was a killer bridge player, a puzzle aficionado, a great cook, baker, and once a downhill skier. She was an avid reader, a gardener with prize sunflowers, and went to every community event she could, volunteering for years. She was the family matriarch and her own person. No matter what, she looked on the bright side and kept going, reinventing herself. She loved writing poetry and short stories. She loved art. Nail art too. She loved the beach, and welcomed many a sunrise driving out to Montauk bringing a coffee and bagel to her friend, Carl. J Diddy championed her friends and could be counted on to host a plethora of fun times, Christmas cookie baking parties, Kentucky Derby parties complete with good bourbon, mint juleps, and hats, always hats. There were surprise parties for friends complete with in- house karaoke, pool parties, even a Trustee campaign party for me. Our Queen J Diddy, in her regal robe and crown at her 70th Birthday bash ten years ago threw herself a soiree to rival all, with karaoke and dancing. J Diddy was up for it all. Clam Contests, Montauk Music on the Green, Fishermens’ Fairs, Fundraisers at the Firehouse, and ferry rides to a Lavender Farm and NoFo wineries. J Diddy was the OG of Fun. “She chased the moon in Montauk and had the celebratory champers on hand,” a friend said.
J Diddy preferred the sunny side of life and disliked quibbling and ill will; people behaved around her. She was kind and loving and wanted everyone to get along and be happy because life can be short. I wondered about “The Diddy’s” zest for life after loss, and how she became a free spirit late in life. “I lived one life before. Now this is my life. Why not savor it all?” Why not indeed? Gusto, gumption and good will, all packed inside a low-size woman whose heart and soul towered over any giant. She will be remembered for her smile, her laugh, and her generosity. When you hear Neil Sedaka’s The Wanderer, think of J Diddy. Good night, my friend, The Queen, the President, fellow goddess, and lover of dogs, particularly your Summer Lily I and Lily II. You taught us to live in the moment, not dwell on the bad stuff, and appreciate the people who are around us, as nothing and no one is promised forever. One good friend said it best, “I admired her ability to find the fun in life which created friendships in so many places.” A new name perhaps: J Diddy, Ambassador Of Fun.