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Bertie Takes Byrd Under Wing

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The 75-year-old movie palace needs a new roof, refurbished seats, new carpeting, repair of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ and just a good cleaning, says Tony Pelling, development director of the Byrd Theatre Foundation. (The Byrd hasn’t had a thorough cleaning in 20 years, he says.)

“The foundation wants to raise money to buy and renovate the Byrd to bring it back to its 1930s glory,” Pelling says. Buying the estate from the owners and renovating it will cost $3.5 million. The foundation unsuccesfully applied to the city for money, he says. (City spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins says the request wasn’t submitted on time; Pelling contends he never heard back from the city.)

Selvey is confident that she can help. A positive attitude will make finding donors easier, she says. “I decided they [Byrd Theatre] needed help, and I picked other friends who I knew were as enthuasitic and hard-working as I am,” Selvey says.

Mary Burruss is one of them, even though she no longer lives here. Her love of the Byrd comes from growing up in Richmond. As a teenager, she worked at the Byrd, where she did everything from selling popcorn to managing. She now travels from Alexandria to participate in the Byrd Watchers. “I hope Richmond will pull together and help,” she says. “It’s our theater, it’s our gem. Where else for two dollars can you get a show and movie on Friday and Saturday night?”

And now the Byrd Watchers are busy with their first fund-raiser, a concert featuring Julie Johnson at the Byrd July 18 and 20. Johnson became an audience favorite at TheatreVirginia playing Patsy Cline in “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline.”

But there’s more. Nov. 9, the Byrd Watchers are holding a gala and auction at Domicile furniture store on West Cary Street. Selvey says $50,000 worth of items already have been donated; one of which is a stay in an apartment in Paris for two weeks.

Selvey’s work isn’t going unnoticed. “It’s such an amazing group of powerful Richmond women,” Burruss says. “Bertie is amazing.” — Maria D. James

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