Penthouse Retrospective

by Deborah Spungen Originally Published: October, 1983

Nancy Spungen | BONUS Penthouse Legacy

Happily, it was bright and sunny the next morning. I phoned at noon and woke them up. Nancy asked me to call back in an hour. I did and woke them again.

“We’ll get up,” Nancy said. “Come for us in an hour.”

David picked them up. They weren’t in the lobby when he got there, he later informed me. So up he went up to their room and knocked on the door. Nancy called for him to come in. They were still in bed, naked, watching Saturday morning cartoons. When David walked in they got out of bed, put on their rumpled clothes from the previous night, and took a swig each of methadone from the Fairy Lotion bottle. Then Nancy said, “Let’s go.” Neither of them got washed or brushed their teeth.

At our place the two of them stretched out in the sun on lounge chairs. Suzy had made plans to visit a friend, so she left. Frank, David, and I had lunch on the patio. Nancy and Sid said they weren’t hungry.

He was green after five minutes in the sun.

“I don’t feel very well,” he said weakly.

“He’s probably not used to the sun, Nancy,” I said. “Maybe he should sit in the shade.”

She helped Sid move to a chair in the shade. When he still felt ill, I suggested she take him inside where it was air-conditioned.

“Stretch out on the sofa in the den, Sid,” Frank said.

“May I watch the telly?” Sid asked.

“Sure,” Frank said.

“Any cartoons on, Frank?”

“Don’t know. Probably.”

“How about ‘Sha Na Na’? Is it on?” “Tonight, Sid,” David said. “At seven.”

Nancy took him inside, laid a towel down on the sofa to protect against his wet suit. He stretched out. When I came inside she was sitting on the end of the sofa, stroking his head, which was in her lap.

“How does he feel?” I asked her.

“A little better,” she replied.

“Does he want something cold? Sid, would you like a drink? A cold drink?”

“Please, Mum.”

I brought him some juice. He thanked me and drank it. Then he sat up and lit a cigarette. Nancy turned on the TV and found some cartoons for them to watch.

They sat there on the sofa for the remainder of the afternoon, chain smoking, staring at the TV, glassy-eyed. They seemed stuporous. Occasionally they would nod off, lit cigarettes in hand.

I went into the kitchen — stomach knotted, teeth clenched — to find something to do. I couldn’t sit there anymore looking at the two of them.

There was no point in saying anything to her. I couldn’t reach her. She was lost to me. My arms ached to hold the baby Nancy, ached for a fresh start.

I didn’t know how much longer I could stand it. I wanted them gone.

Suddenly Nancy appeared behind me.

“Mum, would you take me to the hospital?” she asked.

“What for?” I demanded, alarmed.

“I, uh, got beat up by the Teddys a few weeks ago and they pulled my ear off. A doctor sewed it back on, you know, but I forgot to get the stitches out. Just remembered.”

“Here, let me see,” I said.

She pulled back her hair and turned so I could get a good look. First, I noticed the yellowish bruises and open sores along her hairline. Then I saw the ear. Revulsion swept over me as I saw the row of stitches that ran along the back of her ear, all the way from the top, where the ear met the skull, to the bottom, where it joined the neck.

It did, however, look clean and healed.

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..