Police are currently on the hunt for the person responsible for shoving 87-year-old vocal coach Barbara Maier Gustern to the ground the evening of March 10, resulting in a brain injury that took her life.
The incident occurred outside of Gustern’s apartment on Manhattan’s Lower West Side when an unidentified woman came up behind Gustern and pushed her, causing her to fall and hit her head, according to CNN. The woman fled the scene, leaving Gustern where she lay until a man on a bicycle who witnessed the attack brought her into the lobby and an ambulance was called, according to The New York Times. Gustern had been rehearsing a cabaret show with friends in the apartment, and left to see a performance at Joe’s Pub.
“I’ve never been hit so hard in my life,” Gustern reportedly told one of her friends following the attack.
Just under a week after her attack, Gustern passed away as a result of her injuries, leaving a community of friends and artistic peers mourning her loss.
“Today, at 11:15AM, we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world,” Barbara Maier Gustern’s grandson AJ posted on Gustern’s Facebook page. “Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart.”
As of the time of this post no arrests have been made, but NYC police have released video and images of a woman they think may be Gustern’s attacker.
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“We’re asking the public’s help in solving this disgusting, disgraceful offense committed against a vulnerable, elderly female who was doing nothing but walking down the streets of New York City,” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday during a news conference. “So, please — anybody with any information on this person or her whereabouts, call 1-800-577-TIPS.”
Gustern was a classically trained singer who was a vocal mentor to Debbie Harry, Kathleen Hanna, and cast members in the 2019 revival of the Broadway musical Oklahoma!
Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon’s Nights and Weekends editor, and her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. Her first novella, Something is Always Happening Somewhere, comes out on May 13, 2022 via WolfieVibes Publications.