Is there a single person in our entire city who doesn't love this cheerful 95-year-old guy who still parties every night of the week?
I haven't found one.
Listen to some of Red Shapiro's prominent friends.
• Tom Luck, owner of Lucky Shoes:
“No matter where we go, everybody knows him, everybody loves him. It's just amazing. We go to happy hour, have a little dinner. Nine o'clock is the new midnight, so I get him home before 9. He's doing great.”
• Jeffrey Thomas, owner of Alpha Asset Management:
“Red is one of those guys who is always happy and never complains. The only time I have ever heard him complain was a year or two ago when he was bitching about having to take Viagra.
“I wish that when I was in my 20s I was as popular with the ladies as Red is in his 90s.”
• Holly Everson, owner of H. Everson Designs:
“He loves me! But Red loves everybody. He's just a giver of friendship and love. He's always positive, always smiling. Just a genuine good soul. Even today, at 95, he lights up a room. He has that gift.”
Arnold “Red” Shapiro has 1,153 friends on Facebook. Yes, Facebook. How many 95-year-olds sit in their living room working their way around Facebook on their iPad?
He even has a harem. During two hours at Beau's Grille in Fairlawn the other night, he kissed at least four women. He takes selfies with them and posts the pictures online.
“I love the companionship,” he says. “They're 40 or 45. They say, 'Hi, Red, hi, Red. Give me a little kiss on the cheek.' I love that. It makes me feel good.”
The man can work a room just as well as he did six decades ago at the bar that carried his name.
Although he has owned, run or hosted at a laundry list of Akron clubs and nightspots — Rosemont Country Club, Buck's at Quaker Square, Crocker's at Good Park, the Vault and Posh downtown — his main claim to fame, by far, is 31 years as proprietor of Red's, a once-booming nightspot on Waterloo Road, just east of Arlington Road on the south side of Akron.
He first bought the place when his family's nearby grocery business burned down in 1957, and he needed a job. In those days, it was a small shot-and-a-beer joint called Shorty's that catered to a rough crowd, mainly sailors from a Navy base near Akron's municipal airport.
Within six months, the Navy base was moved to Philadelphia. That turned out to be a blessing. Although he lost a lot of ruffians, he began to attract a more diverse crowd and a lot more women.
Red started out hiring local bands, then added national bands and off-the-wall entertainment acts, turning the place into a regional attraction. Patrons could dance to live music every night of the week.
He kept expanding the building, from a capacity of 75 to 600. At one time he kept a list of the married couples who had met there; he says it numbered close to 500.
By the mid-1980s, though, national acts had grown incredibly expensive and far fewer people were going out on weekdays, so he pulled the plug.
On the go
Today, Red thinks he's 45. Or maybe 25. You'll find him out-and-about literally every evening, knocking back a couple (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon these days, rather than Scotch), telling stories, smiling, hugging you (man or woman), holding your hand (man or woman) and lighting up the room with twinkling eyes behind huge red eyeglasses.
The hair that led to his nickname hasn't been that color for a long time, but he still has some, and still loves the nightlife, although these days it's more like the eveninglife.
“I have to get out every night,” he says. “That's all it's about.”
You'll find him at places like Beau's, Ken Stewart's, Fleming's and Papa Joe's.
Speaking of which, he has 350 more Facebook friends than the aforementioned Ken Stewart and only 150 fewer than the aforementioned Beau.
A resident of Fairlawn, Red volunteers at Akron Children's Hospital once a week and belongs to Springside Racquet & Fitness Club in Montrose, where he walks three or four miles per visit.
Although he still possesses a rock-solid handshake and an incredible memory, his driving skills began to slip six months ago and he voluntarily hung up his keys.
Turning in a driver's license after 79 years was painful.
“I worried about hitting somebody,” he says. “All my life I've driven without hurting anybody. I said, 'It's time.' I was never a great driver, anyway.”
First car: a 1941 Buick Super. “First two-door with seats in the back. Before that it was rumble seats. Eight hundred and forty-five dollars. Brand-new car.”
These days he takes an Uber or is chauffeured around by friends, most often 48-year-old Jennifer Bishop, who identifies herself as one of his best friends and a “Red's Baby.”
“My parents met at his bar over 50 years ago,” she says. “I am 48, so I can say with some degree of certainty that I wasn't conceived in his parking lot.”
Says Red, “Jennifer is my angel.”
Says Jennifer: “But he's single and ready to mingle. He gets phone numbers.”
They love to laugh and to dance, which they will likely be doing a lot at a big party honoring Red on Saturday at Tangier. (For information and tickets, go to www.thetangier.com or call 330-376-7171.)
The event, featuring Red's old house band LaFlavour, is being billed as “Red's Last Call.”
Doubtful. He has had a number of Red's reunions over the years, including what he was billing as a “last call” in 2016.
So, Red, “last call”? Are you planning to die right after the party?
He laughs. “This is a two-fer,” he replies. “If you buy this ticket, the 100th birthday is free.”
Red believes part of the reason for his longevity is the sport of racquetball.
When you own your own bar and care about it deeply, your work schedule is horrendous. Racquetball was his physical and mental salvation.
“I thought I had to be in my bar all the time. I used to work till about 2 o'clock [in the afternoon], go to the Jewish center, play for an hour, go back to work. Forty-five years I did that.”
He played all the way to age 80, when he blew out a rotator cuff.
“One of the biggest things in my life was racquetball. Oh, yeah. Racquetball was my life. My church.”
Red was born in Cleveland but has been a lifelong Akron West-Sider, a 1942 graduate of Buchtel High. Married three times, he has three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
How long has Red Shapiro been around? His dad sold produce out of a horse-drawn wagon.
Party on, my man.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31