It was probably inevitable that the private, amorous moments of life would be conquered eventually by the god of organization.
Available now in England: Safe-Fax, a leather insert for that high-yuppie information organizer, the Filofax, to hold -- yes -- condoms.
Columnist Liz Smith first alerted the United States to the existence of Safe-Fax, sold in trendy London shops for 20 pounds, and within hours three of Helen Furst's friends had sent her copies of the article.
"That is not ours," Furst, Filofax Inc.'s U.S. vice president of sales, says of Safe-Fax. "Our president just went over to England, so we have him researching who did that."
It's not that the people at Filofax don't believe in finding a better home for the condoms of the world than all those old wallets. They just don't like anyone appropriating the blessed -- and copyrighted -- name of Fax.
"We're not embarrassed," says Furst. "We like to be modern and up-to-date. We do have things that can be used for the same purpose -- I'm trying to be as delicate as I can. We have what we call a linen-lined envelope." As she explains the uses of the linen-lined envelope, Furst's voice begins to crack with a giggle. "I should do this with a straight face," she says. "It would be much more professional."
"We also have something in leather called a nine-credit-card holder, and if you were very busy you could fit nine in there."
Filofax public relations chief Mort Seigal thinks the more discreet might find the binder's leather inside pockets more suitable for condom storage than the credit card insert, which is clear plastic. "I suspect most people would want to conceal a condom," he says.
That the world of Filofax -- or, in this case, the world of Falsefax -- confronted the condom issue is not surprising. Part of the charm of the six-ring leather notebook (the basic "system" sells for $150) is that the devoted can choose from an ever-increasing catalogue of inserts. There are now more than 400 lists, envelopes and tables, from wind-surfing and snooker records (no tittering, please -- in England they know what snooker is) to a "Jokes/One Liners" form that allows the forgetful to jot down witticisms for future use. Many Filo-features are suggested by rapacious customers such as Diane Keaton, who complained that there was no place in the Filofax for money. Voila! The "DK Coin and Currency Wallet." (Filofax officials have nothing against use of the wallet for condom storage -- you'll have to take it up with Diane Keaton.)
And a new line of inserts "targeted to specific market segments," as Seigal puts it, will soon be out, so stockholders, reporters, public relations executives and motion picture people should keep their eyes open.
The shell that houses these elements is available not only in regular leather, but in pigskin, lizard, ostrich, shark, something called "karung," which turns out to be the skin of an Indonesian snake, "tapestry," basket weave and the alliterative "red-ribbed rubber."
"The ostrich is the best-selling exotic we have," says Furst, an ostrich woman herself. "The shark is very masculine. The lizard can be either male or female."
For those not familiar with shark, Furst offers this description: "When you think of elephant hide, rough and grainy -- that's what the shark looks like."
To ensure that no one need leave any piece of paper out of the binder, the company now sells a special six-hole puncher (wholesale price: $17.50) for exact fit.
The Filofax was the brainchild of Grace Scurr in 1921. A temporary typist at a London printing and stationery firm, she conceived of both the object and the name. Scurr later became chairman of the Filofax company, but sold her 15 percent share in 1980 for 1,500 pounds. This was just before the Filo-explosion -- in five years annual sales grew from 100,000 pounds to more than 6 million pounds.
Last month, at the age of 94, Scurr died.
According to the London Times obituary, "Miss Scurr spent her retirement at Southend, Essex, preferring solitude to socializing, and at times finding the modern world difficult to understand.
"She had no regrets, she said, on missing out on the Filofax boom. 'I'm not much of a one for the money,' she explained."
But if its creator is gone, Filofax remains and, as always, welcomes suggestions for possible accessories. Following are just a few the research and development people may want to consider:
Co-op-Fax -- a small but gracious apartment (suggested wholesale price: $75,000).
Filo-Filo -- refrigerated storage compartment for pastry dough.
Ollie-Fax -- padlocked envelope in which preshredded documents can be stored.