Penthouse Retrospective

by Deborah Spungen Originally Published: October, 1983

Nancy Spungen | BONUS Penthouse Legacy

“We’ll have an awfully long wait at the hospital,” I said.

Not to mention another scene.

“How about your doctor, Mum?”

“It’s Saturday. He’s off. Tell you what, I can take them out. There’s nothing to it.”


I went upstairs to fetch a pair of small scissors. I washed them in alcohol, took them downstairs with the bottle of alcohol, some cotton, and antibiotic ointment. Nancy was waiting for me in the kitchen.

“Stand next to the window,” I said. “The light is better.”

She obeyed.

“Okay, now don’t move,” I said.

“I won’t.”

She stood perfectly still for me as I cut the little catgut knots one by one and pulled the stitches out. I worked smoothly and calmly, as if I took out stitches every day. In actuality, I had never done it before. When I was done, I cleaned the ear and put ointment on it.

“It looks fine,” I said.

“Thanks, Mum. Could you make an appointment with a plastic surgeon? These scars all over my arms. I’d like to get ‘em off.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

I sensed another presence in the room. I turned to find Sid looming in the doorway.

“Mum,” he said, “I need a doctor for me eye. It won’t stay open. Could you make me an appointment, too?”

I looked at her, then at him. I felt myself getting sucked into their universe. Now there were two of these helpless souls for me to take care of. My burden was doubled. I took a deep breath, let it out.

“I’ll try, Sid,” I said.

“Thank you. That’d be very nice of you. don’t like my eye, you know. I got it in a fight. People always want to fight with me. Teachers. Policemen. Teddys. Everybody. I don’t want to, but they do.”

“He’s really a very sweet lad, Mum,” Nancy said.

They returned to the sofa and began to nod off again.

When it got to be about six, I went into the kitchen to set the table for the four of us. Nancy and Sid would eat in the den before the TV. Suzy followed me in there. She was angry.

“How can you stand this!” she demanded. “How can you watch them? How can you watch her dying like that? Why don’t you do something?”

I wanted to say, “Suzy, if I let myself react at all, my head will simply blow right off.” But I didn’t want her to know I was so upset. And I was too upset to explain myself. I shut her out. I shouldn’t have, but I did.

“They’ll be gone tomorrow,” I said. “Let’s just get through the weekend.”

She glared at me. “I don’t see how you can put up with it. Your own daughter.” Then she stormed out.

After dinner the four of us, ever alert to the falling cigarette ashes, watched the two of them nodding off on the sofa.

Suzy was still angry. She glared at her sister with a combination of curiosity and disgust. Nancy caught her.

“If you look at me like that one more time I’ll cut your fucking face up,” she snapped viciously, her eyes cold.

Suzy froze. There was total silence. I couldn’t stand the tension in the room, so I went into the kitchen. Suzy followed me in there, wide-eyed.

“Do you think she will?” Suzy whispered, terrified.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t know.”

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..