Today, Andy Warhol would have been 75 years old. His work has aged well. By work, I don’t mean his art. Most of it is clever and some of it is good, but thirty years of progress have removed any novelty that Warhol’s insights once possessed. Warhol made art in the age of television and tabloids, but that’s been the state of art for at least as long as I’ve been alive. By work, I don’t even mean his prescient decision to surround himself with a gallery of Greenwich village artists, beautiful people, and http://www.entertainted.com/scott/Divinity/arphil.html” title=”Divine”weirdos. I don’t mean the wonderfully apt idea that we’ll all be famous for fifteen minutes, or Interview magazine, or the charming museum he left behind, or his generally interminable films, or the re-introduction of wigs for men. No, I mean the Velvet Underground, and specifically the Velvet Underground’s role in the fall of Communism. The VU were responsible for their own genius, of course, but Drella helped make the world safe for democracy when he presented them to a larger world through his movies and Factory gigs. The line about the Velvet Underground, who never broke into the Billboard Top 100, is that they only sold a thousand records but every single person who bought one went out and started a band. Usually people are thinking of the New York club scene of the ‘70s and explicit followers like Jonathan Richman. But off in Czechoslovakia, a band of hippies called the Plastic People of the Universe (the name taken from a Frank Zappa song) heard the VU and felt the healing power of rock and roll. The Russian invasion of 1968, however, brought with it bureaucrats who rejected the decadent bourgeoise music, driving the Plastic People of the Universe — and their performances, multimedia extravaganzas inspired by Warhol’s Greenwich Village bashes — underground for a decade. In 1974, hundreds of their fans waiting to hear an illegal performance were herded away and beaten by police. In 1976 they were arrested. On the first day 1977, having attended their trial and been appalled by what he felt it said about Czechoslovokian society, Vaclav Havel and a group of dissident intellectuals formed Charter 77. (The line between Czech artists, intellectuals, and politicians remains blurry today.) Havel spent years in prison for organizing against the Communists; in November of 1989, student protests led to a general strike. Havel’s Civic Forum organization demanded the resignation of the Communist government and the release of political prisoners. Amazingly enough, in the face of hundreds of thousands of demonstrating Czechoslovakians (and a Soviet Union not prepared for another Prague Spring), they got it. Vaclav Havel became the first post-Soviet president of the Czech Republic. Andy Warhol’s mother, nice Slovak woman that she was, should have been proud. And they called the transition to democracty and freedom the Velvet Revolution.