Melanie Safka #1

by Regis Boff


I grew up in a time when Tampax and its purpose were a heavily guarded secret.

During World War II,  Tampax produced large quantities of wound dressings for the military. It was noted for having a mostly, almost exclusively, female workforce for much of its history. Financially, while still independent, it carried no debt for most of its corporate lifetime and ranked #4 on the Fortune 500 list for return on equity. The original product was designed from the start as flushable and biodegradable.

On occasion as a boy, I would see a box of them left out accidentally by my mother. Even the family dog would uncomfortably avert his gaze away from them. I doubt my father knew what they were. We were Methodist. Methodists do not talk about such things. Maybe Catholics do but that was of no consequence for me because we did not talk to any Catholics out of fear of learning anything scary.

I carried this ignorance into my immediate twenties with an unhidden and grateful relief.

My first job in the music business was awarded me out of the pity of a Chinese college professor who found out I had been driving a cab for almost a year in New York since graduating. He had a connection with the United Nations and got me a job with a folk singer named Melanie Safka. She was about to do a UNICEF tour for kids through the U.S. and East and West Europe.

I was hired to drive her and to establish myself firmly as the lowest person in sight.

It was not until the third show that I got to see her perform.  Before she went on the first night, she asked me to stay in the dressing room with her two springer spaniels to keep them company.

The second show was in Cleveland. As Melanie was heading down the stairs, towards the stage, she grabbed hold of me and with some urgency sent me out to buy her Tampax.

Downtown Cleveland at nine-thirty was darker and emptier than you would imagine.  Many more cities in the early seventies closed down at night. Pittsburgh, where I grew up was much the same way because everyone lived in the suburbs.

They came in different sizes back then. if you can believe it. I bought them all. I got back as the show was ending.