THE '60s are back.
The swinging decade is now ensconced in a museum, several galleries, a clothing store or two. By Christmas, reports one of the clerks at the new Charivari boutique (18 W. 57th St.), smart couples will be partying in brocade Nehru jackets and fur miniskirts. The decade may even make it to Broadway.
The revival seemed to start in earnest with the publication of "Edie: An American Biography," the Jean Stein/George Plimpton collaboration that charted the rise and fall of Andy Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick. Since it appeared two years ago, a coterie of downtown people has scrutinized the book, like tourists in a foreign country, adopting retro customs for their own -- happenings, silver walls, black light posters, dark glasses, junk food.
"The '60s style, that is," points out Dean Savard, one of the coowners of Civilian Warfare (105 Avenue B). For the past three years this East Village gallery -- one of the first in the recent art boom thereabouts -- has been bringing back the raw look of the Vietnam era. "Politically, of course, we are stuck in the '50s."
Last year fashion designer Stephen Sprouse brought the '60s back to the runway. His Day-Glo velvet blazers and sequined, graffiti-covered minidresses were an immediate hit, as was his entourage: photographer Steven Meisel; Teri Toye, a successful model with long, ironing-board-straight blond hair; and makeup artist Way Bandy.
Last week Toye -- now a superstar of sorts -- turned up as a "doll" in an exhibition at Civilian Warfare. Greer Lankton, an artist who looks remarkably like Greer Garson, produced the likeness for the show (through Oct. 14). Lankton also has an effigy of Sedgwick and a series of oversized troll dolls among her collection.
Curator Barbara Haskell of the Whitney Museum of American Art believes the period "established a radical new sensibility," and has mounted an exhibition to prove it. "Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism, and Performance 1958-1964" opened last week with -- what else? -- a "happening." While hundreds too young to remember the original event looked on, artist Allan Kaprow recreated his 1961 happening by filling the museum's outdoor sculpture court with a thousand used truck and car tires. The show takes its title from a Roy Lichtenstein painting and centers on an Andy Warhol homage to Dick Tracy comic strips.
Warhol might not know what to make of the revival, but he may soon be at the Kennedy Center reciting his philosophy. An Andy Warhol robot, that is. Directed by wunderkind Peter Sellars, the 45-minute "No-Man Show" was originally slated to open on Broadway. But now that Sellars has taken up residence in the nation's capital as director of the American National Theater Association, the robot may utter Warhol aphorisms on the Center's stage later this fall. "No-Man" producer Lewis M. Allen reported last week that the robot, which looks remarkably like the pale, silver-headed artist, was "nearly ready to roll" -- except for an arm and part of a brain.
Suddenly it seems less surprising to learn that "The Leader of the Pack" Ellie Greenwich is appearing on Broadway this fall in a two-act production of her life (Ambassador Theatre, date to be announced). The queen of '60s' teen-age pop has a new audience for "Da Doo Ron Ron." Or that the new hot spot Pizza-A-Go-Go opened in July with a black-light foam pit -- like the one in the old Electric Circus discotheque -- and a team of go-go dancers behind bars.
Those over at Civilian Warfare do not seem threatened by the competition. Savard, eyeing Toye and her doll, announced confidently the other day over a glass of budget champagne that "Leo Castelli dean of contemporary art dealers called our gallery the hottest thing since his gallery opened in the early '60s."
Though Savard was barely toddling when John F. Kennedy entered the White House, he was no innocent observer of that decade. The son of an International Red Cross aide, Savard grew up in Vietnam during the war. "I saw it live. You saw it on TV," he says proudly, smoothing his shoulder-length white-blond hair, one fake diamond earring dangling from his right lobe.
The question is, with memories of the worst of the '60s, why would he want to relive it?
"Who said I did?" he answers incredulously -- as though someone had missed the point of it all.