Friday, October 21, 2011


Upper West Side Manhattan Apartment block.

Slowly but surely I got use to life in New York City although it took me almost five  years before I felt that this is where I was supposed to be.I thought the Americans would be like the British .We spoke the same language it would be easy to get use to life in American. After all I lived in Italy and there I could not even speak the language. I was in for a big surprise. The New Yorkers  were as strange to me as the Japanese. New York was made up of people from every country in the world. Every religion and nation was represented here.

People of New York.

Gerhard starting coming to the U.S. more and more as he was working on a new venture to get Calvin Klein represented in South Africa. He was working with a very wealthy South African Indian and since he was spending so much time here, he  subleased an apartment from the South African Interior designer Charles Allim on 63rd street off 5th Ave. When Gerhard was not here he would rent it out to some friends who visited from South Africa. Colin and Lynne Benjamin were frequent guests.

I was still living in the  hotel on the Upper West Side and sweating it out at Rosella's and the Danzante Company. Money was tight so it was a big splurge for me to go to the Metropolitan Opera. I do remember seeing La Gioconda" with Eva Marton, "Rinaldo" with Marilyn Horne, "Ernani "with Luciano Pavarotti and Leona Mitchell as well as Jessye Norman's Metropolitan Opera  debut in "Les Troyens."

I met up with Leo and Reneé Conradie once again. I knew Reneé before she got married when she was working for the South African newspaper, "Beeld." She wrote the first interview with me that was published in "Beeld" after I returned to South Africa from Italy.

Reneé Conradie and Ed Du Plessis .I use to dress his mother when his father was member of Parliament in South Africa. His sister, Lettie was also a fashion designer. 
Soon after we met, Reneé married Leo Conradie  who was working with  the foreign office of the South African Government and then they moved to Athens, Greece. He was now second in command at the South African Mission at the United Nations here in New York. They lived in a beautiful apartment on 83rd street and Park Avenue. They had a boy, Soois, and a girl, Sophia, who were about 5 and 3 years old at that time.
(This  little girl turned out to be a chef at the George V Hotel in Paris.)

Sophia and me playing a game while Maricia Steward. the ambassador's looks on. This is Christmas Day 1983 .The next day I moved into my new apartment in Salome's house.

Marble Collegiate Church in the shadow of the Empire State Building .

Leo and Renee's introduction to Marble Collegiate Church changed my life for the better and I am still a member of Marble Church after 33 years. On Fifth Avenue and 29th street  .Marble was part of the Reformed Church of America. The Dutch settled Cape Town as well as New York (or New Amsterdam) about the same time. The Dutch Reformed Church was prominent in both places . I grew up in that denomination.The famous Minister of Marble Collegiate at this time was Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of the best seller, "The Power of Positive Thinking."

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

At the time Dr. Peale was already 85 but each Sunday morning the lines were around the block to hear his sermon at 11:15 am on a Sunday morning. He was a great orator and knew how to get one's attention. Dr. Arthur Caliandro  preached the 10:00 am sermon and took over from Dr. Peale when he retired a couple of years later.

Dr. Arthur Caliandro.

Donald Trump's father, who was a Marble member ,and Dr. Peale invested the trust fund of the church in Wall Street real estate so it became a very well-to do congregation that used their money to help the underprivileged. It has been a wonderful faith community to me. They also support two church communities in Soweto South Africa .They have great music and the music director, Ken Dake, is one of the best.

Through Leo and Reneé I met another person that would change my life in New York.  Her name was Salome Conzen. She was known to me as Salome Bruwer  - the South African Broadcasting Corporation's New York representative. We would hear Salome every morning on the South African Afrikaans morning radio show, "Monitor," reporting from New York. She was a household name.

Salome Bruwer.

Suzie Salome Willibald and Liz.

Salome, Willibald,  Liz and Vincent  -sailing the Atlantic in 1955.

Willibald and Salome Conzen with Suzanne, their younger daughter.

Salome and her husband . Willibald Conzen  immigrated to the USA from South Africa in 1952.
He become the CEO of Schering Plough and was the first CEO of an American company that achieved a  billion dollar turnover. Salome's son, Vincent, came with them and subsequently they had two more daughters, Elizabeth and Suzanne. By the time I met Salome she was divorced and had just bought a brownstone in Greenwich Village on 12th street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

The First Presbyterian Church on the corner of 5th Ave and 12th street.

Salome's family were French Huguenots who emigrated to South Africa between 1687-1689.
The original surname was Breuer but later became Bruwer. Her father, Andries Bruwer, was the first Afrikaner who graduated from Harvard. Her mother was Sannie Van Rooyen. They lived in Pretoria and Sannie was friendly with many South African artist. So much so, their house were filled with Pierneefs, Maggie Laubsers and Alexis Preller's. Salome still owns some Pierneefs and some Laubsers.

Maggie Laubser painting.

Dr. Andries Bruwer on the left and Salome on the right.

Salome is a beautiful woman and as a younger woman she looked like Ava Gardner. The Conzen's had a very glamorous life style. They traveled the world. She wore designer clothes and her hair was done by Kenneth. Like Jackie Kennedy she was photographed by Harper's Bazaar on the streets of New York in her Leopard skin coat during the 1960's. 

Salome just  bought a brownstone  in Greenwich Village which was rumored to have had Veronica Lake, the 1940's movie star, living in it. Salome was renovating the two bottom floors and garden into an apartment for herself. The rest of the house was divided into four smaller apartments.

Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd.

Reneé felt that we would both benefit if I could rent one of the apartments in Salome's house. We were both Afrikaners and it would be great place for me to live. Salome would also benefit from having a male tenant around that she could trust and who could help her. Salome told me that she was still living in the top floor apartment but once she moved downstairs, I was welcome to rent that top-floor apartment.

Salome, Renee and me -talking to Maricia Steward.

This was the answer to all my prayers. Unfortunately Salome's father passed away in September and she had to go to South Africa. This delayed matters somewhat but eventually on December 26, 1983, I moved into the top floor of the West 12th Street brownstone. Salome was in the Bahamas with her daughter Suzie, but Liz and her future husband Jesse welcomed me .
This has been my home for the last 33 years. It was built in the 1845 and is on the preservation list of historical buildings of New York City.

Maggie, Liz, Katie-Sue, Salome, Andrew and Suzie.

Salome at my  birthday party 1998.

Barbara, Salome and  Henry at 12th street #4R

Garden of West 12th street with the Ernest Ullman sculpture in the background. He was a German sculptor that immigrated to South Africa in 1935.

Salome and her first granddaughter Katie-Sue , in the garden of West 12th street.


 In 2001 Salome moved to Chicago to live with her daughter Dr. Suzanne James and her husband Tim James who is a heart surgeon.She could not live on her own any more and was more comfortable there surrounded by her 3 grandchildren.
We still spoke very often on the phone and I did go and see her whenever I was in Chicago for business. We still spoke Afrikaans to each other and shared stories about out homeland and friends.
She was such a big part of my life and I was always very thankful for what she -and her family -did for me when I came to this country. I still live on 12th street in her house.


On the 2nd of April 2012 Salome passed away at the age of 88- and left an enormous empty space.
She was a dear friend and I will always remember her as a elegant, intelligent, gracious and well spoken lady- a blue blood South African .I will always treasure her memory.
May she rest in peace.

Proteas- the National Flower of South Africa - to honor a South African Lady.

Salome and  Majak 1988

Henry Salome and Erwin.

Salome and  Henry  2003

Salome in August 2011 at the age of 88.


West 12th street.


This  block of West 12th Street has been home to many celebrities from Jimmy Hendrix to Meryl Streep. At the moment  Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Melisa Tormei, John Waters and designers Marc Jacobs and Izaac Mizrahi live here.

Jimi Hendrix

Meryl Streep

Tom Cruise.

Cameron Diaz.

Melisa Tormei.

John Waters

Isaac Mizrahi.


On 33 West 12th  street is the ARDEA Apartment block .
Completed in 1896 with two apartments to each  floor consisting of living room, dining room, library, two bedrooms and a bathroom- plus a maid's room and bathroom. 

One of the tenant's in the ARDEA were the Meloney family.
Mrs. William B Meloney.
  Mrs.. William B. Meloney, was editor the Women’s Magazine and Everybody’s.  Her life changed when she took the post of editor of another women’s magazine, the Delineator. Along with fashion and fiction, it contained serialized autobiographies of women like Kathleen Norris, Marie Curie and Ethel Barrymore. For her work helping war-ravaged Europe she was decorated three times by the country of Belgium and another three times by France. 
Through her work she became friends with the now-ailing Madame Marie Curie, who was suffering after years of working with radioactive materials. In May 1921 the distinguished scientist traveled to New York .

Madame Marie Curie.

 " In May 1921 the  scientist  Madame Marie Curie  traveled to New York with her two daughters on the liner Olympic to receive degrees from several colleges, awards from scientific organizations and be honored at numerous receptions throughout the New York and Washington DC areas. When the Olympic docked, Madame Curie, her daughters and Marie Meloney were “whisked away in the automobile of Mrs. Andrew Carnegie” said the New York Tribune, to the ARDEA “which is to be her headquarters during her stay in New York.”  While Madame Curie was here, the sidewalks outside on 12th street were banked with flowers from various delegations."



  1. I liked what you said about Salomé Conzen very much. I, too, had the good fortune to know her for many years. She was certainly a woman of elegance, charm and beauty. She also had great insight, intelligence and integrity.

  2. Thank you for posting and honoring such a wonderful lady Mrs. Salome Conzen, my mother Gloria and I lived with Mr. & Mrs. Conzen in Montclair NJ, I remember her being gracious elegant, well spoken, she treat us like her own family, my mom still remembers her with love, and always talks about the girls Miss Elizabeth and Miss Susie. She was a lady with a remarkable life. I wish we had a chance to said good bye. With Love and admiration Alexandra Espinoza & Gloria Torres


      Thanks for this Alexis .It is very kind of you. Above you can see the post of Liz's wedding. I do think I met your mother once. I miss Salome very much-she was a great friend to me .I am still living in her house and see her family often