The 87-year-old Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern remained in a coma Monday after a random attack outside her apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood left her with serious brain trauma.
Gustern, who coached the cast of Daniel Fish’s acclaimed 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, was on her way to the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub venue to watch the performance of a student last Thursday when she was shoved to the ground from behind by an unknown woman. Crime Stoppers NYPD released security photographs of the suspect. She was described by police as a long-haired female wearing a black jacket with a white skirt or dress and wearing long dark brown hair.
No arrests were made.
According to a Facebook message posted by Gustern’s grandson AJ Gustern, the coach and singer has been unconscious and intubated at Bellevue Medical Center since the night of the attack – she was briefly conscious when EMS arrived, and was able to provide a description of the attack – and was suffering from traumatic damage to the left side of her brain. “Should she awake, she will most likely suffer speech problems and may be unable to move her right side,”Her grandson wrote. “It is a very serious injury.”
Gustern, whose students have included playwright and actor Taylor Mac, performer Justin Vivian Bond and singer Debbie Harry, was rehearsing an upcoming cabaret show at her Chelsea apartment with her collaborators Barbara Bleier, Paul Greenwood and actor/playwright Austin Pendleton when she left to attend the Joe’s Pub concert. Bleir posted the following Facebook account about what transpired:
About 8:30 last night, Austin Pendleton (Paul Greenwood) and Barbara completed a rehearsal for our show on Sunday. The rehearsal was at Barbara’s home on West 28th Street. Barbara ran downstairs to attend a late show. Paul left and Austin waited in my lobby for a car. A young man helped a bleeding Barbara into the lobby after a few minutes. She, and the young man were able to tell us that she had been attacked by a woman, likely in her 30’s, and to describe the woman a bit. Barbara was able, after calling 911, to give the ambulance number and her name. But, Barbara began to lose her consciousness after she was placed in an ambulance. A brain bleed was discovered after she arrived at the emergency department. We were informed that she would not be allowed into the trauma center due to COVID protocols. I was called by the neurosurgeon within an hour. He advised immediate surgery because she was in good enough health to withstand the operation. Pressure on the brain and further bleeding were also prevented. The surgeons proceeded with surgery and Barbara is now in stable condition.