The colourful sex life of Con Boland

Posted by on Aug 25, 2017 in Books, Brian's Blog, Celebrities, Justice | 0 comments

Edmonton photographer Con Boland died this week of cardiac arrest at age sixty-nine. Here’s some of what I wrote about him in 2003, eight years after his former sex partner, Marilyn Tan, went to court to face an assault charge for injecting him with HIV-positive blood: THE STORY FIRST HIT the front pages in February 1993 when Con Boland, a well-known Edmonton portrait photographer, told police that an “unknown assailant” with a scarf covering his face came to Boland’s front door and threw sulphuric acid at his face, burning his neck, shoulders and chest. Four people were subsequently charged with a series of offences, including conspiracy to murder Boland: His former lover Marilyn Tan; her new lover Geoffrey Clarkson; and two private detectives hired by Clarkson to implicate Boland in alleged narcotics activity. The charges against the three men were later dropped, primarily because of tainted wiretap evidence. But some of the charges against Tan stuck and by the time she went to trial in May 1995 the case had taken on the dimensions of a TV movie of the week. “Edmonton’s trial of the century,” proclaimed the Edmonton-based Western Report magazine. “High society characters and tales of explicit sex highlight the case against Marilyn Tan.” The acid attack, as it turned out, was not the only aggravation factor in Boland’s troubled relationship with Tan. Eight months earlier, in June 1992, she had allegedly injected him with HIV-positive blood while they were having sex in a California hotel room. It was mainly because of this incident that she went to trial in Edmonton on charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy to administer a “noxious substance” and twice administering the substance. Additionally she was charged with uttering a death threat against Jeanette Kunkel, the woman who became Boland’s new sex partner after he parted company with Tan. The case spotlighted the sordid end of a relationship that began in 1984 when Tan arrived at Boland’s doorstep, responding to his ad for a receptionist. He was then a boyish-looking 36-year-old, establishing a reputation for himself as “photographer to the stars,” with a roster of high-profile clients that included hockey great Wayne Gretzky, Pierre Trudeau, Peter Lougheed and Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington. She was a dark-haired 24-year-old beauty, divorced with a four-year-old son, and had been living in Edmonton for about two years. Born in the Philippines and raised in poverty she had emigrated to Canada at age seventeen with her mother and an older brother, settled first in Winnipeg, married at age twenty, and had a baby boy whom she nicknamed Tex. Tan had fifty dollars in her purse when she and Tex arrived in Edmonton. She found a low-rent apartment, worked behind the counter at a 7-Eleven store, sold clothing at a women’s fashion store, and then went on the road as a band singer. She didn’t have much of a voice but, according to the agent who booked her, “she had a real artistic sense and she could work an audience.” She applied for Boland’s receptionist job in order to get off the road. But her qualifications failed to impress him. She couldn’t type and she knew nothing about photography. Plus she had a “foreign” accent, and Boland didn’t like that. But he did like her smile and, though he initially hired someone else to answer his phone and do his paperwork, he found another place in his life for Tan. He phoned her later that day and invited her out for dinner. “She was vivacious,” he said. “She had some kind of charisma.” They saw one another regularly...

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