I've recently been re-reading Deborah Spungen's book about her daughter Nancy. It's one of those books that in many ways isn't *actually* very good, but I read it at just the right age and was a bit obsessed with it. Being obsessed with tragic dead celebrities is a bit unedifying, I know, but we've all done it (right?) and hopefully we all grow out of it a little bit, too. (See this article in lovely Rookie magazine that says exactly what I mean.)
Anyway. I was inspired to read 'And I Don't Want To Live This Life' again because of a casual conversation about Nancy Spungen and her place in cultural history. A conversation that went the way these conversations always seem to go.
"She was just a groupie, wasn't she?" was one of the comments. "She came to London just to try and sleep with a Sex Pistol."
So what? This seems to be used as a convenient way of writing her off. As if that makes it OK. As if she 'got what she deserved' in some obscure way.
It absolutely baffles me, always has. She was murdered. Why is so much negativity still squared directly at her?
How is it that a murdered girl barely out of her teens (she was only just 20 when she died) is the one who always ends up being demonised in the tale of Sid and Nancy?
Seriously, how? I will say it again: she was a 20-year-old girl and she was murdered. She bled to death under a sink in the Chelsea Hotel, after being stabbed in the stomach.
While it's a flawed book in many ways, 'And I Don't Want To Live This Life' at least humanises her. It is the story of a mother and a murdered daughter, not "just a groupie". (As if this is relevant, anyway.)
It's all part of the same old trope, in some ways - why was Kurt Cobain 'a tortured genius' and Amy Winehouse just 'a mess'? I went to see the film 'Amy' recently and was struck by the fact that although her eating disorder was mentioned, it was glossed over an awful lot compared to her drug use, even though bulimia seems to have been what actually killed her in the end. Is it because it's cooler for drugs to kill you than an eating disorder? Particularly when it's bulimia - so messy and gross compared to anorexia, and not nearly as photogenic? There was also a section in the film that showed some of the comments made about her at the time in comedy gigs and talk shows (she's on drugs, she's crazy, she looks terrible - it's hilarious!!!) - I don't remember anyone laughing at Kurt Cobain when he was skinny and on drugs and had smeared eyeliner running down his face.
Maybe Nancy Spungen wasn't a 'tortured genius' (although, actually, she sort of was - but OK, she wasn't A Musician and all the hallowed things that represents) so her treatment in death seems to have been a million times worse. Reading the book was a very different experience at 34 (compared to 17), but mostly in a way that made me even more sad and even more angry,