In Heaven Above

Back in Paris during the 80s some of my friends were involved in fashion. World-class Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaia invited me to the their pret-de-porter shows and I was lucky enough to have known the most beautiful women in the world. Few were more exotic than Marpessa.

Half-Dutch and half-Surinam, her beauty was frightening, but in 1984 I invited her into a dinner at Chez Dave on Rue St. Roch with the infamous art dealer Vonelli by saying that we wanted to exploit her beauty for NASA.

“NASA?” asked the cinnamon-skinned mannequin and I forgave her benign ignorance, since Man hadn’t stepped on the Moon in over a decade.

“NASA sends rockets into Space from Florida. Vonelli is from there.”

“From Miami Beach?” Marpessa regarded us with an accusatory stare. She was used to hearing bullshit.

“Close, but a little more to the north.” Vonelli had abandoned his family lucrative seed business in Fort Meyers to pursue a career as a piano player in London. Many people in Paris thought he was CIA. They thought the same of me. “But I’ve been contacted by Mission Control to find the most beautiful woman in Paris.


“Because NASA is broke and they are holding a lottery to see who will be the first man to have sex in Space,” Vonelli told her this over a plate of Dave’s famous BBQ ribs. His spiel cast of spell of trajectories, G forces, and weightlessness. I sucked the meat off a bone and said, “And why you? The head of NASA saw your photo on the cover of Vogue and said this woman could launch a Space Shuttle.”

“C’est Vrai?” the beautiful modeel spoke four languages and a fifth was saved for her lovers.

“Absolutelment.” Vonelli was in his prime. He looked 50% MI-5 in his Savile Road suit.

“Your face will grace posters across the globe. One night with Marpessa. $1.”

“$1?” Millionaires would have halved their fortune for a single night in the glow of her dusky beauty and destitute Paris artists would have bathed to paint her nude.

“Times one billion people. We will make you rich.” I couldn’t believe she was buying our hooey, but Vonelli dropped a card on the table. It was only partially stained by BBQ sauce. “We will guarantee you $10 million for your efforts.”

“And I’ll have to go to Space?”

Vonelli and I pingponged a glance.

“Yes.” We nodded like a senators okaying a secret assassination. “We call the project IN HEAVEN ABOVE.”

“I’ll do it.”

“Fantastique. You will save NASA.”

We toasted our future.

It lasted to the door of Dave’s.

Marpessa went her way in a taxi.

Vonelli and I repaired back to our table. Dave sat down and said, “You are mean.”

“And beauty is even meaner.” Vonelli ordered a bottle of wine. We drank it regaling everyone about IN HEAVEN ABOVE and everyone wanted to believe in a lottery to have sex in Space, because when the shit gets a foot high the cool step a foot higher.


  1. Marpessa
    Posted April 5, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Dear Peter,
    this story cracks me up! Such a shame I lost Vonelli’s card… and my memory of him!
    Anyway, thanks for posting this treasure of a tale and the picture which you must have taken in Bellechasse…



    PS I am quarter Surinam! 😉

  2. Posted April 6, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I wrote a screenplay based on IN HEAVEN ABOVE.

    Vonelli is in Belgium. I saw him while I was the unofficial writer in residence at the British Embassy in Luxembourg

    I’m in New York.

    Good to hear from you

    The foto is from azzidine’s atelier in the marais

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