October 12, 1978. Room 100 of The Chelsea Hotel. The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious finds girlfriend Nancy Spungen bled out on the bathroom floor, a knife wound to her abdomen. An unsuccessful suicide pact? The unintended result of a robbery? The aftermath of an addict’s all-night drug binge? Authorities never answered these questions, considering Vicious the only suspect in Spungen’s death and closing the case after his own heroin overdose six months later. But one question still remains: Who killed Nancy?
“Sid Vicious may well have been a lot of things,” says author and filmmaker Alan G. Parker. “He may well have been a heroin addict. He may well have not been the world’s most talented bass player. But I don’t think he was a murderer.”
After three books, countless conspiracy theories and almost 30 years of research, Parker believes with his latest documentary, Who Killed Nancy?, he’s close to answering that question. Parker’s spent the last 26 years attempting to exonerate Vicious, culminating with Who Killed Nancy?, opening at Cinema Village July 30.
“The Chelsea now is a nice little bohemian hotel,” says Parker. “Back in the ’70s, it was a rat range full of heroin addicts. [The police] were attending to something in the Chelsea almost every day, so I kind of think to be fair to them, it was just the death of another junkie. I’m not even sure they spent too much time investigating. They just thought, a junkie died, so what? Stick her on the pile. There’ll be another one tomorrow.”
Parker spent years trying to get Vicious’ story to the public, but funding woes stymied Who Killed Nancy? After six years, Peace Art Entertainment is releasing the film. Its 89 minutes offer unrated insight into the lives of Spungen, 20 at the time of her death, and Vicious, 21 at his, stemming from the time of the couple’s first meeting to Vicious’ death February 2, 1979. Parker interviewed 182 people for the project, including Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, photographer Peter Kodick, who bought the heroin that killed Vicious, and Chelsea Hotel resident Neon Leon, one of the last to see Spungen alive.
Compiled of Japanime-esque animations, reenactments and original footage of the couple, set to a soundtrack Vicious’ punk-rock roots could be proud of, Who Killed Nancy? offers not only insight into what occurred the days leading to Spungen’s death but also an alternative account of what happened the night she died.
“It was quite well documented there was a big party in room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel, and it’s also quite well documented that quite a lot of ne’er-do-wells showed up at the party. I kind of think with the amount of money gone missing, and that Nancy was killed in such a brutal way, there’s got to be third party involvement.”
Specifically, an unidentified suspect known only as “Michael,” whose presence the night of Nancy’s death was corroborated by partygoers and hotel guests as the last seen in room 100—aside from Vicious— before Spungen’s body was discovered.
Regardless of their punk-rock martyrdom, in earnest Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen were addicts so out of it at their peaks that to this day it’s unclear what occurred the final moments of their downward spiral. Parker says we love them for it.
“They’ve become the James Dean and Marilyn Monroe of their own generation, haven’t they pretty much?”
And it’s that ubiquity that keeps us intrigued about exactly who did indeed kill Nancy, a question that for now Parker is OK to put to rest.
“Way back in ’84, I was approached by Sid’s mother to do a book about Sid Vicious, obviously. With no crystal ball in one hand, I had no way of knowing that 20-odd-years later I’d be putting a film together about the same guy,” says Parker. “Sid. Well, God bless him. But now I think we’ve shook hands and parted at the crossroads.”