Nancy Spungen

Nancy Spungen
Nancy Spungen
Born February 27, 1958(1958-02-27)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 12, 1978(1978-10-12) (aged 20)
New York City, New York, U.S.

Nancy Laura Spungen (February 27, 1958 – October 12, 1978) was the American girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious. Spungen has been the subject of controversy among music historians and fans of the Sex Pistols.



Early life

Spungen was born at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[1] to Frank and Deborah Spungen. She was born with severe cyanosis and nearly died of oxygen deprivation after being choked by her umbilical cord during delivery. She was spared from brain damage and released from the hospital eight days after birth.[1] The Spungen family was a middle class Jewish family that resided in Lower Moreland Township, a suburb of Philadelphia.[2] Her father was a traveling salesman; her mother later owned an organic food store called The Earth Shop in nearby Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.[1]

She was a difficult baby, throwing crying fits and temper tantrums late into childhood. At three months old, she was administered a liquid barbiturate by a pediatrician, but her violent behavior persisted.[1] In an interview, Deborah Spungen stated, "I know it's normal for babies to scream, but Nancy did nothing but scream."

She scored "superior" on an intelligence quotient test at five years of age,[1] and was allowed to skip the third grade. Though she excelled academically, she had few friends during her elementary school years.[1]

She was a temperamental child who exhibited violent behavior toward her younger sister, Susan, and brother, David.[3] She allegedly threatened to kill a babysitter with scissors, and attempted to assault her psychiatrist, who accused her of "acting out" for attention.[1] At age 11, she was expelled from public schooling when she was absent from class more than two weeks.[1] Her parents, weary of her erratic behavior, enrolled her at the Devereux Glenholme School and Devereux Manor High School. In January 1972, she ran away from Devereux Manor and attempted suicide by slitting her wrists with scissors. When Spungen was 15, her psychiatrist diagnosed her with schizophrenia.[4]


Spungen graduated at Devereux Manor High School in April 1974, and her application to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder was accepted two weeks earlier. She began attending the university at the age of 16;[3] however, five months into her freshman year, she was arrested for purchasing marijuana from an undercover police officer. She was expelled from CU, and permanently banished from the state of Colorado.[1]

After being fired from her first job on the first day, she began financing herself by stealing from her family and dealing drugs.

Relationship with Sid Vicious

Spungen left home at age 17 and moved to New York City. She worked as a stripper around Times Square (and allegedly at a brothel as well).[5] She followed bands such as Aerosmith, The New York Dolls and The Ramones. In 1977, she moved to London, allegedly to win over Jerry Nolan of the Dolls and The Heartbreakers, but met The Sex Pistols instead.[6] When lead singer Johnny Rotten did not show interest in her, she pursued bassist Sid Vicious and they soon moved in together.[citation needed]

During a tumultuous 23-month relationship, Spungen and Vicious became addicted to heroin and other drugs. Vicious was already abusing multiple drugs before he met Spungen. Sources claim that he had begun to use speed with his mother at an early age.

The tabloids dubbed Spungen "Nauseating Nancy" for her frequent public displays of verbal abuse and violence. After the Sex Pistols broke up in January 1978, Spungen and Vicious moved to the Hotel Chelsea in New York City.[6] They stayed in room 100 and were registered under Mr. and Mrs. John Simon Ritchie, Vicious's real name.[7] There, Vicious tried, with limited success, to continue his musical career.


Over the next few months, Vicious and Spungen spiraled into deeper drug abuse, punctuated by domestic violence within which Vicious brutally attacked Spungen. Their relationship ended violently on October 12, 1978, when Spungen was found sprawled on the bathroom floor of their hotel room, dead from a single stab wound to the abdomen, later traced to a knife owned by Vicious.[8] This was reportedly a "007" hunting knife he had obtained after seeing Dee Dee Ramone give one to The Dead Boys' Stiv Bators, although conflicting reports claim the knife to be a Jaguar K-11 with a five-inch blade.[9][10] Vicious was immediately arrested and charged with second degree murder. Vicious pleaded not guilty and was released on bail.[11] Four months after Nancy's death, prison and drug rehabilitation, he overdosed taking a lethal amount of heroin, and died before the trial could take place.[12][13] After Vicious died the police closed the case.[14] Nancy was buried in her hometown in Philadelphia.[15]

A young woman is dead. I don’t care. You probably don’t care. The police don’t care. The papers don’t care. The punks for the most part don’t care. The only people that care are (I suppose) her parents and (I’m almost certain) the boy accused of murdering her.
––Lester Bangs, on Nancy Spungen's murder

There are several theories that Spungen was murdered by someone else, usually said to be one of the two drug dealers who visited the apartment that night, and involving a possible robbery, as certain items (including a substantial bankroll) were claimed to be missing from the room. [16] In his book, Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk, Phil Strongman accuses actor and stand-up comic Rockets Redglare of killing Spungen. Redglare had delivered 40 capsules of hydromorphone to the couple's room at the Chelsea Hotel the night of Spungen's death.[16]

Redglare steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder of Nancy Spungen throughout his life. He stated that the other dealer known to have been there that evening had left before him to obtain more heroin, and was due back after he had left the building. He said he believed that the other dealer returned, found Vicious out cold, and attempted to steal the remaining drugs, leading to a confrontation with Spungen.

Related works

And I Don't Want to Live This Life, by Deborah Spungen (Nancy's mother), was published in 1983. The title of the memoir is taken from a poem written by Vicious after Spungen's death.[citation needed]

Rats by Veronica Schanoes, appeared in the 2007 Interstitial Arts Foundation anthology Interfictions. The story is a punk rock fairytale inspired by Spungen's life. About her work, the author said "I wrote Rats because I was angry with the way the recent coffee-table histories of punk seem to have no problem demonizing a dead, mentally ill, teenage girl."[17]

Sid and Nancy, a biopic directed by Alex Cox, was released in 1986. The film portrays the life of Vicious and his relationship with Spungen. It stars Gary Oldman as Vicious and Chloe Webb as Spungen.

Who Killed Nancy? is a 2010 British documentary film directed by Alan G. Parker that includes interviews from those associated with Vicious and Spungen, including Glen Matlock, Don Letts, John Holmstrom, and Howie Pyro, among others.


External links

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