The situation was almost as bizarre as the alleged crimes under discussion. For 35 minutes last week, celebrated portrait photographer Con Boland chatted casually on an Edmonton open-line radio program about the tragic turns his life has taken over the past year. Boland, whose subjects include Wayne Gretzky and Pierre Trudeau, said that a year ago he was fed sleeping pills without his knowledge and then injected with a syringe containing the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the major cause of AIDS. The 45-year-old Boland, who says he now tests HIV-positive, also alleged that in late February a man came to the door of his riverside Edmonton home and tossed sulphuric acid in his face. Boland then took questions from several callers, admitting at one point that he consorted with prostitutes “a long time ago.” He also acknowledged that his story had a movie-ofthe-week quality to it. “The trouble is, I’m one of the actors,” he said. “It’s my life.”
The phone-in program was one of several high-profile media appearances by Boland last week after police arrested Boland’s ex-lover, Marilyn Tan, and her current companion, millionaire businessman Geoffrey Clarkson, on several charges, including aggravated assault. But when the radio interview ended, the soft-spoken photographer fretted that he had gone too far. “I have been totally honest and bared my life and soul,” Boland told Maclean’s. “I am a creative, successful person. But I have been portrayed as a sensation-seeker.” He was particularly concerned, he added, that his comments might jeopardize the legal cases against the people he accused of attacking him. Last week, Tan, 33, a Phillipine-bom former model, was charged with one count of aggravated assault related to the alleged HIV injection. Clarkson, 59, president of New Zealand-based Sealcorp Computer Products and a member of the illustrious Toronto-based family that founded the blue chip accounting firm Clarkson, Gordon, faced one count of aggravated assault related to the acid-throwing episode— and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder that police said were not related to either the alleged HIV injection or acid assault. Both Tan and Clarkson, who were arrested while leaving Tan’s house in Edmonton’s fashionable Old Glenora district to catch a flight to the United States, were later released on bail, but prohibited from leaving Edmonton.
According to the Dutch-bom Boland, his relationship with Tan ended bitterly last year. In November, Tan, who had lived with Boland since 1985, filed a civil suit claiming that she was entitled to half of everything that Boland had acquired during their sevenyear relationship. While helping to manage Boland’s studio, she said, she gave the photographer the love and support of a legal wife. But Boland dismissed Tan’s assertions, declaring in court documents that during their relationship she had worked as a salaried receptionist in his business. He also denied her claim that he had promised
to marry her.
A month after Tan launched her suit, Boland told Edmonton police that he had been injected with HIV. Speaking to reporters last week, he recalled falling into a deep sleep during July, 1992—three months before his relationship with Tan ended—and waking up the next morning with a large bruise on his thigh. He added that when he tested positive for HIV in November, he decided that someone must have injected the virus in his thigh while he was asleep.
After Boland and Tan parted company, she struck up a relationship with Clarkson, who frequently travelled to Alberta looking for breeding stock for two cattle ranches that he owns in New Zealand. Clarkson, a former dean of business at Northeastern University in Boston and author of the 1981 novel Jihad, about a plot by Islamic radicals to destroy the British economy, helped Tan to purchase several photography studios in Edmonton. According to Boland, the couple offered to pay him almost $1 million for his studio and equipment. He declined.
The sensational nature of last week’s criminal charges drew attention from as far afield as London and New Zealand. Boland, meanwhile, vowed to keep a much lower profile until his allegations against Tan and Clarkson are resolved. He also disavowed an earlier statement in which he claimed that, in spite of everything, he still loved Tan. “I care for her, but it is sad to see her throw her life away like this,” he told Maclean’s. “My love has died.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.