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"I used to be a boxer," he said. "But that was in the '50s. Now, I just like collecting sports memorabilia." He showed me his gold ring, which was shaped like a boxing glove. He paused, seemingly lost in nostalgic thoughts about days of blood, sweat, and KOs. "You know, Sylvester Stallone — the guy who played Rocky — and I are the same height."
I must have looked skeptical.
"We're both 5-foot-9," he continued. "He's just on a lot more steroids and has a bigger physique."
Customers: Just then, a chatty, good-looking woman in a pink shirt sidled up and greeted King. Her name was Beth, and she was a longtime fan of Wednesday karaoke nights. She had recently started working a Friday shift.
"It's really busy here sometimes," she said. "King likes country music, but sometimes we'll play booty music and booty-dance on him."
I took a second to imagine that. "I bet he doesn't mind."
"No, and it's a different crowd at every time of day," she said. "There are people in here at all times — even 7 a.m. — and I stop in quite a bit and visit King. I've known him since I was a kid."
"Seven?" I said. "I love to drink, but seriously? Not in the morning." Beer before my morning oatmeal? That could redefine morning sickness.
"I have a day job and three kids, but I try and come here as often as I can," she said. "Sometimes my kids are like, 'Oh, are you leaving us again?' But they can handle themselves. They're all in their teens." Maybe the kids are just subtly hinting that they'd like to bar-hop with Mommy?
"Speaking of that, I just spent $350 on hurricane supplies," she complained. "I've got a closet full of Yoo-hoo and Gatorade."
"We're hoping there's a hurricane," King explained to me with a small smile. "So we can have a hurricane party. We need to go out and rain-dance."
"I don't want a hurricane!" I said. I can party just fine without natural disasters, thanks.
"Well, if there is one, it's pretty safe here," King assured me. "The beams of this place were transported years ago from a naval base. It's solid." Famous last words, but still, I knew where I was coming if the next hurricane down the line gets too close for comfort.
I approached Jimmy, who had since made several more trips to the jukebox, and Debbie, a woman with sleek, dark hair and a classy emerald-green top. They'd been joking with Lisa, so I pegged them for regulars and introduced myself.
"I came to this bar before King took it over," Jimmy said. "Much better now. The old owner was more interested in drinking than running a bar — it closed down for awhile."
"Yikes," I said. I'm more interested in drinking than almost anything. Sounds like that doesn't end well.
"We thought you might be applying here for a job," Debbie said.
Actually, maybe not a bad idea. Sure, I shouldn't jump in bed with the first Wilton Manors bar that doesn't try and reorient me, but this place is a piece of history. And honestly, with all the shit going on in the world, it's reassuring to know that Red's, with its cheap beer and steady clientele, opens at 7 a.m. sharp.