It Happened To Sassy

Tampon companies sure do carry a big stick, or at least a super-absorbent one. When she was a high school student in Greenwich, Connecticut, Kelly got toxic shock syndrome from using a tampon. After her recovery, she decided that maybe what happened to her was important enough to share with others. In spring '92, she wrote down her story and sent it in to Sassy's It Happened to Me column. Needless to say, she was thrilled when the Sassy powers that be called to tell her that they liked her story and would run it in the September issue. They also said they'd pay her $300 for it.

She waited all summer to see her byline, and, you guessed it, the article never appeared: ``The issue came out, and it wasn't there. I had to call them up and find out what happened,'' Kelly remembers. ``They said they decided not to run it.'' Not that there was anything wrong with her submission, mind you. No, an editor told her that ``a tampon company had threatened to pull out their ads if they ran the article.''

Mary Kaye Schilling--Sassy editor at the time--remembers that the decision to kill Kelly's story was not an editorial one. ``We were totally behind it. We were psyched about it. We thought it was a good piece,'' she says. But the balance was tipped toward business. ``We were told to remove it at the last minute,'' Schilling says. And this wasn't the first time Sassy fell victim to advertiser coercion. ``Often,'' she says, ``something like that happened at the last minute.'' Schilling recalls that the decision to pull Kelly's piece was then publisher Linda Cohen's.

``I had no authority to tell anyone not to run anything,'' Cohen, who can't recall the particular incident, says. ``I might bring a piece to Dale's [former owner Dale Lang] attention and he might decide to pull it, if, editorially, he felt it was not being handled responsibly.'' And for his part, Lang says--via spokeswoman Joan Elliott--he ``doesn't remember ever pulling an editorial to satisfy an advertiser.''

Kelly now attends the University of Massachusetts, where she studies nursing. She suffers no side effects from her TSS, except that she can never again use tampons. Kelly asked me not to use her last name in this article; she's gotten a glimpse of tampon industry clout and m.o.--``I don't want to be sued or anything.'