It doesn’t get more P.R. (“punk rock”) than the final days of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, the notorious and dysfunctional so-called “Romeo and Juliet of punk”—frankly, I’ve always viewed them as not too far off from John and Yoko, but I digress. Two messy heroin junkies, they bounced around for most of 1978 after the Sex Pistols disbanded. In September, they landed in Manhattan, where they rented a room at the Chelsea Hotel and Nancy appointed herself Sid’s manager. A month later, she ended up slumped next to the toilet in their room, dead from a stab wound to the abdomen (though she had multiple shallow stabs all over). Sid was arrested and allegedly confessed to her murder. While out of prison on bail, he died of a heroin overdose—some claim accidentally administered by his mother, others claim suicide—just four months later.
Danny Garcia’s Sad Vacation, a straight-to-video release coming out almost exactly 30 years after Alex Cox’s biopic Sid and Nancy, revisits these legendary rock and roll deaths. Interviewing many a soul who was there—Steve “Roadent” Conolly, Kenny “Stinker” Gordon, Hellin Killer, Walter Lure, Howie Pyro, Cynthia Ross, Gaye Black, Phyllis Stein, and Sylvain Sylvain to name a few—Garcia presents the facts, which are conflicting and not at all clear. Although Sad Vacation covers a little history of the punk movement, Malcolm McLaren, and the Sex Pistols, the focus is assiduously on what happened at the Chelsea. Narrated by Fun Lovin’ Criminals front man Huey Morgan, Sad Vacation takes on the tone of a crime documentary, laying out evidence and showing the holes in it. Not surprisingly, Garcia reveals some of the “eight thousand or so” conspiracy theories surrounding the murder, with those who knew the couple speculating on who really killed Nancy. Many point to Rockets Redglare, a drug dealer and bodyguard who worked for them. Redglare, who went on to appear in a number of films you’ve actually seen, died in 2001 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockets_Redglare).
Sad Vacation is not essential viewing; it doesn’t uncover anything new, raise any points that haven’t been raised before, or even pick a theory to endorse. It concludes that no one will ever know what happened. Big wow. That said, Garcia succeeds in showing that Sid and Nancy were kids—flawed ones, but still. After hearing words like “mess,” “dysfunctional,” and “destructive” to describe their relationship, it’s sweet to learn that his ashes were spread on her grave because they couldn’t be buried together. Now that’s P.R.
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