Who Killed Nancy? (2009, directed by Alan G. Parker)

On October 12th, 1978, a 20 year-old, heroin addict named Nancy Spungeon was discovered dead in the bathroom of her room at the Chelsea Hotel.  Nancy was best-known for being the girlfriend of Sid Vicious, the bassist of the Sex Pistols.  The police arrested Vicious and charged him with second degree murder.  Vicious initially said that he couldn’t remember what had happened the previous night because he had been knocked out on barbiturates.  While being interrogated, Vicious changed his story and said that he and Nancy had an argument during the night but that he hadn’t meant to kill her when he stabbed her.  Later, Vicious said that Nancy fell on the knife but Vicious was such a heavy drug user that many felt it was doubtful he had any real memory of anything that might have happened that night.  After pleading not guilty, Vicious was released on $50,000 bail but he was sent right back to Riker’s after assaulting Todd Smith (brother of Patti Smith) at a nightclub.  At Riker’s Vicious went through a detox program before being once again released on bail.  Vicious died of a heroin overdose the night after he was released.

Who Killed Nancy? is a documentary about Sid and Nancy’s relationship and Nancy’s death.  The film features interviews with friends and cotemporaries of the couple.  (Glen Matlock is the only former Sex Pistol to be interviewed, though Malcolm McLaren is heard in archival footage.)  Sid Vicious comes across as being a deeply damaged individual with no impulse control.  Listening to some of the things that Vicious did before finding fame as the sneering face of punk rock, it is easy to believe that, as much as he did love Nancy, he was also capable of losing his control and killing her.  Glen Matlock’s flatmate describes how he was traumatized for life by watching Sid strangle a stray cat.  Others describe Sid as being childlike and almost innocent, a shy virgin until he met Nancy.  But anyone who could strangle an animal has obviously got some screws loose.

However, the documentary also makes a convincing argument that, even if he was capable of impulsive violence, Vicious was so wasted on the night of Nancy’s death that he couldn’t have even lifted a knife, much less stabbed someone with it.  The documentary suggests that Nancy was murdered by one of the many drug dealers who were coming in-and-out of the couple’s hotel room.  Unfortunately, due to his own public image, it was easy for the press and the public to assume that Sid committed the crime and, suicidal after Nancy’s death, it was easy for Sid to convince himself that he must have been responsible.  If the documentary is correct about Sid’s innocence, at least one person got away with murder.  It’s an interesting documentary.  You do have to feel bad for Nancy.  Even in death, none of the interviewees seems to be willing to say anything nice about her.  After all these years, she is still being blamed for Sid Vicious’s downfall but, as this documentary makes clear, Sid was probably doomed whether or he met Nancy or not.

2 responses to “Who Killed Nancy? (2009, directed by Alan G. Parker)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 4/10/23 — 4/16/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. I was 17 years old in 1978, living in Manhattan with my boyfriend. He was a drug dealer who did a lot of business at the Hotel Chelsea. His street name was Mohawk Mike. He used to deliver heroin to Sid Viscous and Nancy Spungen but he hated it because he said Nancy was a real b and Sid was always trying to pick a fight. One morning in October, I woke up and saw him coming into our apartment and he looked really pale and upset. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he thought he might be a murderer and that’s when I saw all the blood on his hands. He said he was trying to steal some money from their hotel room when Nancy woke up and attacked him with a knife and in teh struggle she got stabbed instead. I tried to talk him into turning himself in but he wouldn’t do it. A few months later, me and Mike broke up and i havne’t seen him since so I don’t know if he’s even still alive. But it feels good to unburden myself of this story, I’ve been carrying it for too long.


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