Funny girl

High atop a hill in Pleasant Grove, Charlotte Parkhurst says the gays are coming to get her--and her pile of mulch too

In a nutshell, Parkhurst is convinced that as part of McCord's plot to turn the neighborhood gay, he got Aunt Betty to draft an anti-Parkhurst ordinance. Wadkins then ensured that the ordinance sailed through the zoning board, past the plan commission, and onto the City Council, where McCord's former lover, Larry Duncan, ensured its final passage.

It would be a great scandal--if only it were true. Regardless, Parkhurst has managed to spin her belief in this conspiracy into a full-fledged bureaucratic nightmare.

Parkhurst was indeed cited for operating an illegal landfill on August 28--exactly one day after Dallas City Council approved a new mulch ordinance. Parkhurst says the timing is no coincidence.

"It [the ordinance] was changed due to me, and because of that, they have caused all this shit for the city because of two people in the neighborhood that want to get rid of Charlotte," she says. "I don't have no problem if everyone's gay as long as they leave me alone."

Parkhurst says she doesn't have anything against gays and lesbians, or any other minority, for that matter. In fact, she welcomes diversity.

"If we sell this house, we've already decided we're gonna sell it to blacks or Mexicans, 'cause they're the only ones who have families big enough for this house," Parkhurst adds. "Gays don't need to be living in a house like this; it's too big for us."

Within moments of closing his front door, Mike Rhoads quickly describes his roller-coaster experience with Parkhurst.

"It's like that Barbra Streisand movie where she has five characters," he says. "This woman's character changed."

Rhoads concedes that he was the one who started calling Parkhurst "Gladys," a jibe that no longer seems fitting now that he must defend himself against allegations of theft, assault, and illegal dumping.

"If you go the distance to patronize her, you got it made," he says. "If you don't, she's a total bitch."

"That," chimes in Bill McCord, "is with a capital B."
On this evening, McCord and his next-door neighbor Larry Peterson are sitting around a pink, black, and white marble table inside Rhoads' elaborately adorned living room.

The table is complemented by two floor-to-ceiling pink marble columns and a marble fireplace-cover, on which a white marble horse head sits. The setting overlooks a romantically lit pool in the back yard, where a narrow path zigzags down the hill, leading visitors through an intricate web of lighted bushes that give way to trees and, theoretically at least, peace and quiet.

"Do you know, when I moved in here it looked very peaceful?" Rhoads says in between sips of a bourbon and cola. "This woman has caused a nightmare for me every day."

Inside and out, Rhoads' home is the ideal place to entertain. The only problem, he says, is that none of his friends want to stay for long because their visits are interrupted by police, code inspectors, and other officials who have been ringing his doorbell for six months.

Clearly distraught by the events, Rhoads' gestures grow more animated as he explains how Parkhurst killed 18 cedar trees that used to serve as a barrier between his and Parkhurst's home.

Rhoads bounces from room to room, illustrating how each window provides a glorious view of trees and sky. Which they do, until he comes to a stop in his living room and dramatically pulls open heavy green drapes. The once-wooded view is now wide open, providing an uninhibited vision of the steaming mulch and, behind it, Parkhurst's kitchen window.

"If you're sitting here, you can see between the big tree and the bush," Rhoads says. "She stands there and videos me inside my house. And when I called the police, do you know what they said? 'Close the drapes.'"

Like Parkhurst, Rhoads has his own collection of documents and color photographs, several of them featuring shots of Parkhurst aiming her camera at Rhoads. This photographic feud, he says, has gone beyond ridiculous.

"I'm sitting here eating my dinner, taking pictures of her videotaping inside my living room and bedroom," he says. "I didn't think this woman would be that big of a disaster."

McCord and Peterson add that Parkhurst has set her sights on them as well.
"I can't walk my dog without her taking pictures. Of course, we're photographing her, but she's doing damage," Peterson argues.

"This block is predominately a gay block, and she does not like gay people," says McCord, who is not surprised by questions involving his relationship with Duncan. McCord, a longtime supporter of Duncan who says he's not related to Betty Wadkins, has already caught wind of Parkhurst's conspiracy theory, and it continues to amaze him.

"She claims she saw Larry Duncan and I holding hands. I am not having an affair with council member Duncan," McCord says, then pauses. "He's not my type."

McCord glances downward as Rhoads explains how he rejected McCord's initial warnings to stay away from Parkhurst when Rhoads first moved into the home in 1993.

"I was forewarned by two or three different people in this neighborhood: 'Don't even try to be friends.' But I went there," Rhoads says. "She's had dinner here. She's been on my porch. She even showed me her breast where there was a lump of cancer."

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