On the weathered portico of New York’s Chelsea Hotel, four bronze plaques honor the writers who ”lived and labored” there: Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Thomas Wolfe, and Brendan Behan. There is no mention of the hotel’s most notorious denizens — Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen — the acid-washed Bonnie and Clyde who screamed and kicked and shot up together until he killed her there. On Oct. 12, 1978, Vicious, 21, the spiky-haired bassist for the recently disbanded British punk band, the Sex Pistols, awoke from a drugged stupor in room 100 to find his 20-year-old American girlfriend soaked in blood under the bathroom sink, a hunting knife in her abdomen. Vicious (whose real name was John Simon Ritchie) was arrested for murder. Police later discovered that Nancy had bought Sid the collapsible seven-inch knife.
For two people intent on self-destruction, the violent ending was a logical conclusion to a twisted, 15-month relationship. Sid and Nancy had vowed they would never live to see 21. Though some believe the stabbing was a botched suicide pact, others suggest it was a result of one of their regular fights — she would badger him until he beat her up. But Nancy’s mother, Deborah Spungen, has another theory: ”It is my belief that she engineered her death,” Deborah wrote in her 1983 book, And I Don’t Want to Live This Life. ”She wanted to die…. So she egged (Sid) into stabbing her by convincing him it was the only possible way he could prove his love for her.”
Shortly after being released from jail on $50,000 bail, Sid slashed his right forearm with a broken lightbulb and a razor blade, crying out, ”I want to join Nancy! I didn’t keep my part of the bargain.” He recovered but four months later was found dead of a heroin overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment.
With morbid fascination growing since the 1986 movie Sid and Nancy (starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb), folks at the Chelsea have been plagued by a steady stream of Vicious devotees. ”There is no room 100 now,” Chelsea manager Stanley Bard says of the secretly renumbered scene of the crime. ”It was a tragedy, and we wish it had never happened. I wish people would just leave this alone.”
Time Capsule: October 12, 1978
Toga parties took off with National Lampoon’s Animal House. Laverne & Shirley ruled the tube. Exile’s soft-disco “Kiss You All Over” topped the pops. And James Michener’s novel Chesapeake was No. 1.