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Don't mess with perfection

I think it all started back in 1985, which happens to be the year my oldest child, Jamie, was born, but that's purely coincidental. 1985 was the year the Coca-Cola Co. played a cruel trick on the world called "New Coke."

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Coca-Cola is as close to perfect as a soft drink can get, and there was never any need to mess with it. In fact, I kind of resented the fact that they started putting it in "King Size" bottles. Don't even get me started on the 12-ounce cans.

And yet, some marketing genius decided that Coca-Cola needed a new taste and for a few agonizing months, "The Real Thing" was not available except on the black market. I knew a guy who sold 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola to addicts like me for $3 a shot.

Again, Coke was perfect. They got it right the first time. They didn't need a new formula. Some things just don't need to be tinkered with.

Same thing with "Gone With the Wind." I don't care what the political correctness police say, it was a great book. It had everything - humor, pathos, romance, intrigue, war. It was a great, great book. And the ending was sheer perfection: Rhett, walking away into a foggy mist and Scarlett making plans to retreat to Tara to formulate a plot to get him back.

Theoretically, every reader can choose for him or herself whether he will ever come back. I read "Gone With the Wind" for the first time when I was in the fifth grade and have read it many times since, most recently last summer. When I was a youngster, I used to think Rhett was gone for good. I pictured him moving back to Charleston and carrying on as if Scarlett had never existed. Now that I am older and wiser and know more about the real power of womanhood, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rhett came back, and kept coming back, until he and Scarlett both were old and gray. That's just the way it works, y'all.

But that said, the story should have been left the way Margaret Mitchell ended it, period. It wasn't, of course. A sequel, "Scarlett," was written in 1991 by Alexandra Ripley, that captured the flavor of the original about as well as Paris Hilton captures the elegance and class of Katherine Hepburn.

My point is: "Gone With the Wind" was perfect and didn't need to be tinkered with. Just like Coke didn't need to be tinkered with. Well, obviously something brought all this up. Something did - "The Honeymooners."

Remember "The Honeymooners?" Who could ever forget the comic genius of Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows, not to mention Art Carney. The Honeymooners was dead, solid perfect. The apartment building Ralph and Alice and Ed and Trixie lived in made my little mill village house in Porterdale seem like a mansion, but you could just feel the love emitting from that squalid little place. You knew that some day the whole gang would rise above it and move into a somewhat nicer apartment, or maybe even a little house out in Queens.

Ralph, in fact, was always scheming to get rich quick and build a better life for the woman he loved, and Ed Norton was always faithful to the end, following Ralph in and out of every jam imaginable. A man could only dream of having a friend so loyal.

The show, again, was absolutely perfect and timeless. I have a collection of old episodes that I watch from time to time and they are just as funny today as they were when they were first recorded. And since the show was absolutely perfect and did not need to be tinkered with, what happened? That's right. Hollywood tinkered with it.

My lovely wife, Lisa, came home from the video store the other night with a film that, she thought, would make my night. It was a feature-length remake of "The Honeymooners." The Jackie Gleason role was played by some guy called Cedric the Entertainer and the Art Carney role was played by somebody named Mike Epps. I think I have seen Cedric on a few television commercials, and I suppose he is a pretty funny guy in small doses. The other people in the cast were just people in the cast.

I tried to watch the show with an open mind. I really did. Pretty soon after I quit trying to watch the show with an open mind, I quit trying to watch the show at all. It was terrible.

Put Nicole Kidman in "Bewitched" or Jessica Simpson in a pair of Daisy Dukes. Hire Danielle Steele to write a sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," and create a new recipe for a Varsity Frosted Orange, but leave "The Honeymooners" the heck alone. There will never be another Ralph Kramden or Ed Norton. They were the greatest!

Darrell Huckaby is a Newton County native and the author of six books. He lives in Rockdale County, where he teaches high school history. E-mail him at DHuck08@bellsouth.net.