Penthouse Retrospective

by Deborah Spungen Originally Published: October, 1983

Nancy Spungen | BONUS Penthouse Legacy

I wanted to tell her that I loved her, too, but it was too late. The connection was broken.

I gave Frank her message.

“Nancy said that?” He was surprised and touched.

“Uh-huh. It was a very strange call, Frank. Spooky, kind of. It was almost as if she were saying good-bye.”

I called White Deer Run on Monday afternoon from the office. The woman I needed to speak with in admissions was out sick. I was told to phone later in the week.

Nancy didn’t call on Monday night. I supposed she had nothing to report about her kidneys.

Nancy didn’t call on Tuesday night, either. I had a vague uneasiness, but I didn’t give in to the temptation to call her. If she was coping with her problems, I didn’t want to interfere with the process. She knew where to reach me.

She didn’t call on Wednesday either. Wednesday was Yom Kippur. I became more uneasy.

On Thursday morning it was glorious and crisp, a beautiful autumn day. I drove to the office early, my mind on all of the work piled up on my desk. I made a mental note to phone White Deer Run, but crises kept coming up at the office and I still hadn’t had a chance to call at two o’clock.

I was coming out of the computer room and crossing the main office to my own office when one of the secretaries said, “Debbie, you have a call. The receptionist wants you to buzz her before you take it.”

I buzzed the receptionist.

“It’s a Lieutenant Hunter from the Lower Moreland police,” she told me. “I just thought you’d like to know.”

I wondered what the local police wanted of me.

I thanked her, and picked up the telephone on my desk.

“This is Deborah Spungen,” I said. “Can I help you, Lieutenant Hunter?”

He sounded very uncomfortable.

“Your… next-door neighbor told us where to find you,” Lieutenant Hunter said. “We were out at your house.”

“What’s this about?” I asked.

“The, uh, New York Police Department would like to speak to you. Something has happened to your daughter Nancy.”

“What happened to her?” I pressed, confused by his vagueness

He didn’t answer me. Instead he gave me the name of a detective and a number to call in New York. Then he was silent.

Suddenly my face felt very hot.

“Lieutenant, please tell me what happened. It’s okay. I’m ready for anything. Believe me. But I will not hang up this phone until you tell me what has happened to my daughter.”

“Mrs. Spungen, I’m sorry to tell you that your daughter is dead.”

My first reaction was disbelief. We’d been through so much together over the past twenty years. I had thought I’d somehow sense her death. I did not.

But it was over, really over. My head seemed to swell up in response, as if someone were using a bicycle pump on it. It must have been a drug overdose. What else could it have been?

Since I shared my office with somebody else, I went to look for my boss to ask him if I could call the NYPD from his office. He wasn’t in his office. I went out into the main office. There were a hundred or so people working and talking out there. They made no noise. Their world was soundless. I felt like I was floating, my head up somewhere near the ceiling.

I did find a vice-president, talking to someone at a desk. I stood beside him for a minute, but he didn’t seem to notice me. I thought about just waiting there until my head exploded all over the place. Then he’d notice me.

I didn’t wait. “Nancy’s dead!” I shouted. “Can I use Joe’s office?”

He stared at me, stunned. Everywhere people looked at me. He nodded.

Few can tell a tragic story as well as a mother, and the Nancy Spungen story qualifies as one of the most sad. Beware the dreams of the Punk Romantic..

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