Summer Recycling

THE sight of bell bottoms this summer - not again! - sends a signal that pop trends increasingly are fodder for recycling. Anyone not convinced can check out a summer entertainment calendar.

Of the three most trumpeted musicals of the season, "Sunset Boulevard" finds Andrew Lloyd Webber reworking still another old movie script. "Phantom of the Opera" meets the ghost of Gloria Swanson. The hot ticket on Broadway is "Tommy," a revival of a 20-year-old rock opera that went from record to film in 1975. And the venerable "Camelot"? The original Lancelot, Robert Goulet, is now playing King Arthur.

For d vu all over again, Hollywood films long have been in a class by themselves. This summer's example of the self-repeating sequel is "Weekend at Bernie's II." A more blatant form of cannibalizing is the seizure of old comic strips and TV series as source material: The summer film "Dennis the Menace" manages to double-dip in both media.

Each generation's music is supposed to be unique, as parents with hands over their ears testify. The 1990s can count rap and hip-hop. But the summer's big crowd-gatherers are the Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, Elton John, and Paul McCartney.

Two cheers for nostalgia, especially if works are deemed classics; recycled art has its charms. But some of these double images could put 1990s originality into doubt. One of the controversies of the season concerns whether Joe McGinniss's new book on Ted Kennedy, "The Last Brother," plagiarizes from William Manchester's book, "Death of a President." The question could be expanded to read: Is self-plagiarism becoming a habit of American culture?

Still, before the argument runs away with itself, a certain heavy borrower on the summer festival scene should be acknowledged: Shakespeare, after all, made recycling old plots the work of a genius.

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