Penthouse Retrospective

by Deborah Spungen Originally Published: October, 1983

Nancy Spungen | BONUS Penthouse Legacy

Suzy went up to her room. She was so scared she went back to her apartment in the morning, before Nancy and Sid came back from the hotel. Suzy never had the chance to see or speak to her sister again. That little scene they’d played out in the den was their final communication.

Frank took them to the hotel that night. I picked them up on Sunday at about one o’clock. Just as David had the day before, I found them naked in bed. They got up, pulled on their now filthy clothes, gulped their methadone, and were set to go.

“Don’t you want to pack?” I asked, wary that they’d changed their plans and were going to stay longer.

“Oh, right,” remembered Nancy, heaving their few possessions carelessly into an overnight bag. “All set, Mum.”

I checked them out of their room and we drove them to the station. Frank and I got in the front seat, David in the backseat with Nancy and Sid. Nancy said nothing in regard to Suzy’s absence, though she did clutch her sister’s offering of chocolate chip cookies.

“Thank you so much for having me,” Sid said.

“Our pleasure, Sid,” Frank said.

We drove in silence for a while. Then out of nowhere, Nancy quietly said, “I’m going to die very soon. Before my twenty-first birthday. I won’t live to be twenty-one. I’m never gonna be old. I don’t wanna ever be ugly and old. I’m an old lady now anyhow. I’m eighty. There’s nothing left. I’ve already lived a whole lifetime. I’m going out. In a blaze of glory.”

Then she was quiet.

Her words just lay there like a bombshell. No one wanted to touch them. She hadn’t issued a threat, simply made a flat statement. We all believed her. Even Sid.

Nancy lived out her rock fantasy in New York, sharing the bed and the career of a star. But she and Sid were running out of time.

Nancy did manage to find them a methadone center, but the lines were long and every day Sid was taunted by the other addicts. He got mad. He got in fights.

“They keep hasslin’ my Sid,” Nancy reported. “He’s got this hot button, Mum, and they just won’t leave it alone.”

She went to work on Sid’s career. She tried to line up recording contracts for him, but found little interest from the record companies. Sid had no actual career. All he had was a claim to fame. But neither she nor Sid realized that.

“It’s not workin’ out,” she told me over the phone. “Nothing’s happening. Sid’s real depressed.”

They went back on heroin, and sank deeper into despair. I spoke to her about once a week and each time she sounded lower. She and Sid went out of their room at the Chelsea less and less. One night one of them nodded off in bed with a lit cigarette and set the mattress on fire. Reportedly, a hotel employee rushed up to their room with a fire extinguisher to find them wandering around, oblivious of the smoldering mattress. The manager moved them to another room, room 100.

Nancy called once to say she was ill.

“I’m sick,” she said weakly. “My kidneys. I’m sick from my kidneys. Can you send money? Can you send me money?” “You know the deal, Nancy. Go to the doctor and tell him to send the bill to me. I’ll pay him directly. What’s wrong with your kidneys?”

“Wait, Mum. Sid wants to talk.”

Sid got on. “Debbie?”

“Yes, Sid.”

“Why won’t you help your daughter?”

he demanded. He sounded different — harsh and unpleasant.

“I will, Sid. I’ll pay her bills directly to the doctor. That’s always been our — ”

“Her health comes first!”

“I know that, Sid. I will pay her medical bills. Directly to the doctor.”

“But it’s your daughter’s health!” he snapped angrily.

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..