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Tuesday, 30-Sep-2014 09:13:23 EDT


Singer Judy Kreston, vocalist, club owner and cabaret favorite passed away on December 23, 2009, at Beth Israel Hospice at St. Vincent's, after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 76. Judy Kreston was the daughter of concert pianist Gitta Gradova and Dr. Maurice H. Cottle. She was born and raised in Chicago and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. She received a master's in psychology from Columbia University.

While still young, she left Chicago to join the Shrine Circus, and experience she turned into a popular cabaret show, which she brought back several times over the years. She toured military bases with a USO troupe, playing Laurie in "Oklahoma" and performed often in NYC clubs and the Catskill circuit.After moving to NYC, Judy formed a decades long friendship with Jan Walman, famed cabaret impresario, booking manager and club owner. In fact it was Ms. Walman's midtown club on West 44th Street, Wallman's, that eventually became the location of the original Judys*. It was while performing at various clubs in Greenwich Village, including at the original Jan Walman's on Carmine Street, that she teamed up with musician/songwriter David Lahm, son of Tony and Academy Award winning lyricist Dorothy Fields. She performed for nearly 30 years with Mr. Lahm, and in 1990, they were married.Ms. Kreston, along with restauranteur, the late Richard Hendrickson, established Judys*, a cabaret named after famous Judys, from Garland to Holliday, located originally on West 44th Street and which moved in 1999 to Eighth Avenue in the Chelsea area of Manhattan.In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Betsy Shankin-Morehouse, her two grandchildren Rachel and Elijah, and her brother, Dr. Thomas J. Cottle, of Boston.

A memorial service for Judy Kreston will be held on Monday, December 28th at 11:30 am at the FRANK E. CAMPBELL FUNERAL CHAPEL (1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street), NYC).


I met Ms. Kreston in 1991, when she presented one of the opening shows in the then new Judys* in midtown, where she performed Remembering Felicia Sanders, a popular cabaret singer in the 1950s and 60s who died in 1974. Felicia was a particular favorite of Ms. Kreston. It was an exciting introduction to this talented woman's performance style and the handsome arrangements of Mr. Lahm. This introduction was soon following by many more exciting cabaret shows at this delightful "jewel box" club.

A longtime supporter of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE (advertising JUDYS* in every issue of the original print publication and later every week on the website until the Chelsea location closed), I am indebted in even more ways than financial to this marvelous lady. Several years ago I had a personal crisis that resulted in a period of deep depression, which she, having a master's in psychology, noticed on one of my visits to the club. She took time from her busy schedule to spend several hours over several weeks helping to deal with the crisis - and helping me gain a fresh new outlook and renewed energy. Her kindness, understanding and love was both sincere and effective.

Cabaret is an art that emphasizes the small gesture, and Judy Kreston was an expert. Usually confining her movements to just a few square feet around the mike stand, Judy again and again confirmed what I often wrote: "If you want to see the art of cabaret performed at its best, see Judy Kreston in a show!" She is sorely missed.

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