The “Sid” in John Ritchie’s stage name was in honor of his pet hamster; the “Vicious” was because he was so mild mannered. By the time Sex Pistols’ co-lead Sid Vicious was found dead on Groundhog Day 1979, the victim of a too-hot shot of heroin, he had a murder charge hanging over him. Was he indeed a killer? Did someone else ice Sid’s live-in Nancy Spungen with a knife at the Chelsea Hotel? Sad Vacation by Danny Garcia seeks to clear the fog with some grand jury testimony and interviews with some surviving downtown NYC characters.
Licensing fees, there were few, as the soundtrack indicates. Garcia is farming played-out soil compared to The Filth and the Fury, or Alex Cox’s fictionalized Sid and Nancy, or Deborah Spungen’s memoir of raising her deeply troubled daughter, And I Don’t Want to Live This Life. Garcia has a lot of making-do to do here on screen. However, it’s not a total loss: the matrons and geezers on screen—all of whom were once young punks and punkettes—have their own conflicting accounts of the Sid and Nancy courtship. Some remember Nancy as a girl generous with the money she earned stripping on the Deuce. Others admire her scorecard as a groupie (Iggy, David Johansen, and Steve Jones of the Pistols are all there.).
Some of the interviewees, such as “Stinker” Gordon of the band Real Hell, murmur covertly in alleys and staircases of the possibility of a different killer. Maybe a stiffed drug dealer. Maybe, but likely not, the Sex Pistols’ impresario, Malcolm McLaren. Perhaps the highly shady “bodyguard” (i.e., medicine-fetcher) Michael “Rockets Redglare” Morra.
Making a documentary is all about staging. The Sex Pistols’ roadie Steve “Roadent” Conolly has the sun streaming through the window behind him, as he speaks with a mild voice in a friendly pub. When he describes Nancy as “a whiny, whiny horrible vampire woman” or tells of her habit of leaving a cab with the meter running waiting all day outside of Harrods (“Very punk…”) it’s easy to say a regretless sayonara to the “Juliet of punk,” as one friend calls her here. It’s also easy to agree with Conolly that it wasn’t Nancy that drove Sid to death, so much as junk-addled NYC during its rottenest days.
Nov 12, 8pm, $10
The Ritz, San Jose