At 80, Red's nickname is no longer within three lengths of accurate. His follicles quit in the stretch. What hair remains on his freckled head is white. The rest has, shall we say, been scratched.
But a slowly forming new look is the only major change in the last 54 years of Maurice Adams' life. Since the Hoover administration, through wars and depressions and waves of customers who couldn't pay, Red has been driving a limousine from downtown Washington to whichever local race track is running. And through all that time, "it's been Red, just Red. I'm sure half my customers think I don't have a last name."
Seven days a week - and sometimes seven nights, depending on demand - Red fires up the black 1973 Cadillac that is the entire fleet of Red's Limousine Service.
RLS offices are the folding chair that Red sets up in front of the Town Theater in the 1200 block of New York Avenue NW. Office hours are whatever Red says they are. They end whenever someone lets him know it's 90 minutes to post time, and thus time to shove off.
Forget about calling Red; he has no phone. You might reach him by mail - if the porno proprietor down the block remembers to pass on a letter. As for advertising, business cards or receipts, Red says he has "never needed any of that." And rent for a parking space has never proven necessary, since the space he consumes each day is clearly labeled No Parking Any Time.
Despite a lifetime around gamblers and their addiction, Red's basset-hound face is still warm. His noes may be nahs, his yesses may be yeahs, and his sentence structure may not always be thoroughbred. But his customers say he has always been quick to lend anyone he knows $20. And in a city of workaholics, there cannot be a more dedicated fellow.
Red's last vacation was "six years ago, or something like that." His last illness was 12 years ago. He claims to have missed only about 30 days in 54 years. "I am gonna be driving," he said one recent day, "until they take my license away."
That's a license to drive to which Red refers. It is doubtful anyone would ever want to rescind his license to bet. Despite knowing all too well that "the only way to beat the track is to own it," Red is one of the more successful hunch bettors around town.
For instance, he always plays the 2-7 and 7-2 combinations in exacta bets, where a plunger must pick the first two finishers in order. He came up with this contribution to betting science on, and in honor of, his 72nd birthday. "I've been doing well with it, so why change?" Red says.
Red never bets favorities, never bets every race, never consults past performance charts and never watches the races. As soon as he arrives at a track, he just unravels that same folding chair by the main entrance. There, he greets friends, occasionally dozes and occasionally glances at the program. When he can; to save energy, he will ask a friend to place his bets and to collect his winnings for him.
But by now, the money is secondary. For Red, a lifetime of driving, hunch-playing and listening to hard luck tales has produced the thing he treasures most stories.
Ride with him any day, as he creeps up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway 10 miles under the speed limit, two hands firmly on the wheel. For six bucks, or whatever he decides the fare is that day, Red will Qutrunyon Runyon.
"Greatest bettor I ever knew was this Chinaman," said Red, as he homed in on a little track north of Baltimore called Timonium. "Man couldn't lose. Used to bet hundreds and hundreds and could never explain why. 'Him got four leg. Me like.' That's all he would ever say.
"One day there were two horses in the same race, Storminess and Strumming.This guy couldn't read English too good, so he bet $600 on the wrong one. He won $36,000.
"We were up at the window for half an hour collecting. He bought us all dinner in Baltimore. And then he dropped out of sight for three days.
"I figured he had gone and bought a restaurant; guy was a waiter. But then he wandered up the fourth morning, right there on New York Avenue, and he said, 'Led, me bloke.' He had lost all that money playing fantan."
Red's most illustrious customer - he was also Red's first - was Charles Curtis, vice president under Hoover. "I used to meet him in back of the State Department, so no one would see," Red said.
"The senators, the congressmen, I can't even count them. Judges, vaudeville people, everybody." Lately, Red's most notable regulars have been Estelle Frank, heiress to the Gifford's ice cream fortune, and D.C. City Council member Willie Hardy.
But regulars do not a fortune make. "You're not gonna get rich driving a limousine to the race track, I'll tell you that," said Red. "You always grind out a living, but that's all."
Even that is difficult sometimes. Red does not insist on payment in advance. That means he sometimes does not get paid at all. Thus has been born Red's favorite aphorism: "The best tip I can give you about racing is to take your money from your right pocket and put it in your left.
"But I love it. It keeps the doctor away," Red says careening along the Baltimore Beltway. "People that don't bet don't understand these things. There's something about horse racing. You get that zip. You got to be there."