40 Years Ago: Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen’s Relationship Ends in Her Death
On Oct. 12, 1978, the body of 20-year-old Nancy Spungen was found in a room at New York's famous Chelsea Hotel. She and her boyfriend, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, had been living in Room 100 for about a month and a half when Vicious called the front desk, saying that something had happened to his girlfriend. It turned out that she was dead from multiple stab wounds to her stomach.
Vicious had risen to notoriety after joining the Sex Pistols in 1977, replacing the punk band's original bass player. He first met the American Spungen when she visited England as part of the entourage following former New York Doll Johnny Thunders' new band, Heartbreakers, during their 1977 tour. The two quickly became a couple. Following the break up of the Sex Pistols at the beginning of 1978, the pair had been living in New York City.
On the same day Spungen's body was found, Vicious (who was born John Ritchie) was arrested and charged with her murder. Within three months, he would be found dead, by his mother, of a heroin overdose. After his death, the NYPD closed the case against him, and never pursued any other action regarding Spungen's death.
Filmmaker Alan Parker challenged the idea that Vicious murdered his girlfriend in the 2009 movie Who Killed Nancy? He paints a less-than-flattering picture of Spungen, a notorious hanger-on and drug addict who had made plenty of enemies in her short life. While promoting the film, Parker told the BBC, "Realistically, the worst title in the world for this film is Who Killed Nancy? What it should have been called is, Who Didn't Kill Nancy and Here's 500 Reasons Why." He claims that Vicious was passed out when Spungen was killed and that $24,000 was stolen from their room.
"I'm sorry, God, for the day I brought Sid into the band," Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten told The Independent in 2009. "The best aspect of his character, which was his humor, just vanished the day he joined the Pistols. Poor Sid -- once you start on that heroin trail of self-pity, it's gone."