King Kong lives!

Fifty years after a squadron of tiny biplanes shot the great ape off the Empire State Building, enthralling generations of movie-goers, King Kong is returning to the top of the famed skyscraper next month for a one-week stay.

In a publicity stunt with more hot air than most such events, a California balloon maker plans to inflate an 84-foot-tall replica of King Kong and tether him to the top of the building on April 7 as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the movie's premiere, April 10, 1933.

"There is a possibility we will have biplanes flying around it, just to create the proper ambience," said a spokeswoman for the Empire State Building, which is co-sponsoring Kong's return with Robert Keith & Co., the San Diego company that made the $100,000 inflatable ape out of heavy-duty plastic.

The anniversary celebration also will include the dedication of a commemorative plaque, the opening of a Kong exhibit in the building's lobby, and a message of greeting from actress Fay Wray, who accompanied the ape on his first trip up the tower.

Unlike the original Kong, who clawed his way to the top, the new Kong will make his ascent by freight elevator to the Empire State's 86th-floor observation deck. He then will be inflated, gripping the southwest side of the building's tower--originally intended as a dirigible dock.

Kong will be kept inflated by a fan constantly blowing air into one of his ankles, a method not unlike that used to keep "tennis bubbles" inflated. Jack Mayo, a spokesman for Keith--which has made many similar inflatables and considers itself the leader in the field--said the company's designers believe the blow-up ape will ride out any high winds. "They say he'll take a 60-mile-an-hour gale, so unless a hurricane comes through downtown New York, we're covered," Mayo said.

With an 80-foot waist and feet 22 feet long, the inflatable ape no doubt will be a traffic-stopper in a city that hardly blinks at the unusual. The Empire State spokeswoman said the only permit required for the ape came from the city building department, and despite the planned addition to the city's skyline, "nobody's said anything" so far about problems from aviation authorities.

Mayo said the idea of returning King Kong to his midtown perch occurred several years ago to Keith's founder and president, Robert Keith Vicino, an artist and hot-air balloonist. It took the movie's 50th anniversary to provide an excuse, but the Empire State Building spokeswoman said the building's management, which uses Kong in advertising, jumped at the chance. "The building forever and ever has been associated with King Kong," she said.

For Keith, the ape is an opportunity to promote its custom-made, reusable inflatables, which are used by companies as promotional devices. The company is perhaps best-known for its inflatable beer and soda bottles, which show up at state fairs, parades, and other events, and for "Otto," the inflatable automatic pilot in the movie "Airplane." It recently has been experimenting with a 30-foot Ronald McDonald.

And although the movie's closing line is "twas beauty killed the beast," it is hoped that the new Kong will live to be inflated another day. "King Kong, once he climbs down off of his perch on the Empire State Building could, if he so desires, climb up another building--and appear around the world for another decade," Mayo said