Punk Rock Romeo and Juliet: Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen
Born on February 27, 1958, Nancy Spungen had been raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her mother Deborah, in her book And I Don't Want to Live This Life, remembers her daughter as difficult almost from birth. She threw ferocious tantrums that scared her parents and cried more than any child should. She was given her first sedative when she was three months old. At age four, she saw her first psychiatrist. When Nancy was 11, she attacked her mother with a hammer because she wouldn't take her to a museum. Nancy's tantrums grew more violent, and she would "smash rooms to pieces." She was often overheard saying, "I want to die." She first tried drugs at age 13, and two years later she was a heroin addict. Her behavior was so out of control, doctors refused to treat her, and she was finally diagnosed as schizophrenic. By the time she was 17, her parents couldn't take it any longer, and they asked her to leave home.
Nancy's drug use spiraled once she was on her own, and to support her habit she worked as a prostitute. Usually clad in black leather, her wild curls dyed platinum blond, she burst onto the punk scene and managed to offend people who were going out of their way to be offensive. She became known as 'Nauseating Nancy,' a tag that didn't seem to upset her. According to Pamela Rooke, "She was unbelievably thick-skinned, one of the most unlikable people I've met. Everybody could see through her — except Sid."
Soon after they met, Sid and Nancy became inseparable. In an odd codependent way, each provided what the other craved. Besides being enthralled with the sex, Sid found a mother in bossy Nancy, and Nancy found someone who wanted to be bossed. They were made for each other. But eventually their relationship took precedence over everything else in their lives, including the Sex Pistols.
Nancy threatened to become the punk-rock Yoko Ono, managing to infuriate the entire band. Johnny Rotten begged Vicious to dump her, but the only person Sid listened to was Nancy. According to Nils Stevenson, the band's tour manager, Vicious came to "dislike everything — except heroin and Nancy."
When they relocated to New York, they chose the Chelsea Hotel because of its reputation as a sanctuary for serious artists and musicians, but the hotel's glory days had long passed, and most of the guests were more interested in getting high than pursuing their muse. Sid and Nancy's stay there had an inauspicious beginning. While in a drug haze, they set the mattress on fire in their original room and had to be moved to Room 100.
It didn't take long for their new room to become a cluttered mess because they kept all their belongings on the floor in Harrods' shopping bags. Their kitten Socks prowled the room, sometimes hiding behind Sid's gold record which sat on the floor propped against the wall. With $10,000 in their pockets, allegedly given to them by manager McLaren before they left for New York, the couple went on a drug holiday, scoring heroin on the streets while developing a taste for the barbiturate Tuinal and Dilaudid, a synthetic morphine.