OPENING NOTES

OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS July 24 1995
OPENING NOTES

OPENING NOTES

BARBARA WICKENS July 24 1995

OPENING NOTES

Planning to escape her past

Doing time. Thanks to countless prison movies, the phrase conjures up all sorts of images of what life must be like behind bars: hard labor, mind-numbing tedium, brutal guards and crazed cell mates. But Marilyn Tan, the Edmonton socialite who was the star of a sensational sex trial in May, encountered only the tedium during her own brief stay in jail. The closest she came to hard labor was peeling potatoes grown on the vegetable farm of the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre, where she

was serving three months for uttering threats. Tan, who was given a private cell, agrees her duties were not terribly onerous. “I came from a very poor country, and I know what hard work is like,” says Tan, who grew up in the Philippines.

The glamorous former model earned her trip to prison after she was accused of injecting her former lover, celebrity photographer Con Boland, with HIV-tainted blood. Although there was lots of juicy testimony at the 23-day long trial about rough, kinky sex games and drugs, she was cleared of trying to kill Boland, with whom she had lived off and on for eight years. She was, however, convicted of uttering threats against another of his ex-girlfriends. After serving 48 days, Tan, 35, was released last week on a temporary absence program. Her sentence is up on July 23, but Tan is being vague about what she will do then. “I don’t think I’ll stay in Edmonton,” she says. “I’ve had lots of job offers outside of Alberta.”

Cruising with the Simpson case

The OJ. Trial industry—which threatens to overtake California’s defence sector as a staple of the state economy—has added a new product line. On Sept. 8, O.J. trial addicts can board the cruise ship MS Holiday, a 50,000-ton cruise ship, in Los Angeles for a weekend excursion to discuss the intricacies of the O. J. Simpson case with informed experts. Jane Doctor, owner of The Ultimate Event, an L.A.-based promotion company, says she has booked about 55 people 3 so far for the three-day cruise to Baja, Mexico— o at a cost per person of between $638 and $706. o She adds that she is confident that all 125 berths 1 will be filled by departure time. “People are real5 ly affected by the case and want to talk about Î every aspect of it, whether it’s the hero-falleng from-grace angle, the type of media coverage, do-

mestic violence or our legal system,” she says. “This cruise will give them the chance to meet face-to-face with legal experts and others who have personal experience in the trial.”The speakers, all of whom have shown up on television as commentators, will conduct panel discussions, hold question-and-answer sessions and stage a mock trial in which the lawyers present final arguments to a juiy of cruisers. “It’s not an irreverent look at events,” says Doctor. “We’re not having dancing judges or look-alike contests.” Meanwhile, Doctor is also planning a Celebrity Dog Cruise for next April. JJie dogs are not pets of celebrities, she explains, but canines who have achieved their own place in the sun—“like Benji, or the dog on Frasier.” Whether the cruise will include Kato, the barking Akita of O J. notoriety, of course, remains to be seen.

PASSIONS

Talking back to his feathered friends

Robert Friedland, the Vancouver stock promoter whose company, Diamond Fields Resources Inc., recently unearthed a multibilliondollar nickel and copper deposit at Voisey Bay in Labrador, has a hobby perfectly suited to his skills. Friedland, who like all stock promoters is

a persuasive talker, collects rare and endangered species of parrot. He keeps six birds and one fulltime employee to take care of their needs and ensure that they feel secure enough to breed. Friedland says that he is almost as obsessed with the exotic birds as he is with business—adding that parrots are smarter than many people realize. “They never,” he points out, “say ‘goodbye,’ when you walk in the door.” One long-time favorite, Ozzie, a double-yellow headed Amazon, is particularly inteli ligent, he says. Noticing that guests invariably open \ a conversation with a parrot by asking, “Do you j talk?” Friedland taught Ozzie to reply: “I can talk. ■ Can you fly?” The entrepreneur also passed along ! some of the tricks of his trade to Ozzie. “Buy low,” ; the bird squawks. “Sell high.” Now if Friedland : could only teach him how to dial a telephone, Ozzie would be the first truly bird-brained stock promoter on Howe Street.

Taking the bloom off scientific research

The federal government’s plans to close an Agriculture Canada research centre near Montreal next April have become a thorn in the side of some horticulturalists. The high-tech l’Assomption facility is home to the 30-year-old Explorer program, devoted to the breeding and propagation of new varieties of roses. Roses such as the Henry Hudson and Alexander Mackenzie are as hardy as the early adventurers for whom they are named—capable of surviving winter temperatures as low as -50 degrees and then blooming profusely all summer long. Rose aficionados argue that the industry is just starting to blossom and should be kept alive, especially in light of the strong international demand that has developed for the Canadian roses. But bureaucrats say that in an era of fiscal restraint, the program needs to be snipped.

Dave Bakker Sr., whose J. C. Bakker and Sons Nurseries in St. Catharines, Ont., has been in business for more than 40 years, is among those who have written to the department to complain about the closing of l’Assomption. He predicts trouble for Canadian growers, saying that most cannot afford the long-term genetic research that goes into developing roses with the attributes required for thriving in the Canadian climate. Bakker, who sold 200,000 rose bushes last year, says the $1.2 million spent on the Explorer program is good value for the money.

BARBARA WICKENS

“These plants make money and bring real joy to people’s gardens,” he adds. Denis Demars, director of horticulture research and development at Agriculture Canada, says that officials there are saddened that the Explorer program is being nipped in the bud: “Certainly we’re disappointed, but we have to make certain choices.” Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Defending a killer’s life on principle

Finding a lawyer who will take on a double murder case in which the defendant has already admitted killing her own toddlers can be a real challenge. Enter Montreal-born David Bruck, a staunch opponent of the death penalty who has taken on the case of Susan Smith, the 23year-old Union, S.C., woman who faces the electric chair. Last October, she told police that her two boys,

Michael, 3, and Alex,

14 months, had been kidnapped, but then revealed that she had rolled her car into a lake with them inside.

The only issue at trial is whether Smith should spend her life in jail or be executed.

The latter is not an option that Bruck can tolerate. He was not giving interviews last week, but a close associate attests to the passion with which he fights to save the lives of his clients. Columbia, S.C., lawyer Lee Coggiola says Bruck has always been in the forefront of law reform in death-penalty cases. The source of his zeal, however, is a mystery to many in a country where 38 of the 50 states have the death penalty. Some U.S. media pundits have even speculated that Bruck formed his opinions as a result of growing up in Canada, where the death penalty was abolished in 1976. But Coggiola isn’t so sure. “I can’t say that it is because he was raised in Canada,” she says, “but I can say it is a part of him, heart and soul.”