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Fort Wayne has had its share of memorable figures over the years. Disco Harry and The Walking Man come to mind immediately, along with historic figures like Johnny Appleseed and General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.
But as iconic as those guys are, it could be argued that none are more memorable than the “Fort Wayne Mullet Man,” Patrick Kopacz.
People “know” Kopacz because has been a fixture at Fort Wayne events for more than a quarter century. It seems like he has been at every big event the city has hosted since, well, since Coors Light was made available to Indiana around 1992.
An attendee at virtually every Piere’s show before they closed, with a napkin in hand, of course, a regular at the Three Rivers Festival events and a fixture at the Corner Pocket, Kopacz stands out in the crowd with his long, flowing locks that are “party in the back and business in the front.”
But what’s his story? What’s behind that mullet?
Business in the front
That’s what the film’s Executive Producer Dan Epple and Director Ryne Hastings of local film company Gunslinger Productions hoped to find out in the making of their new film American Mullet: The Legend of the Silver Fox, premiering in the Ruoff Festival Plaza events tent during the Three Rivers Festival on July 15. The event is free.
While the always perfectly groomed mullet may be the first thing people notice about Kopacz, and while it is the reason most people remember him, Epple and Hastings aim to let us know that there is more to Kopacz than meets the eye.
The film chronicles the evolution of Kopacz from ordinary citizen to Facebook folk hero over the past three decades while seeking to unlock the mystery of what draws strangers to the Silver Fox.
“Going into this story,” Hastings said during an interview with Whatzup that also included Epple and producer/actor Mike Corleone, “I didn’t want to know a lot about the mullet man in advance. I wanted to learn his story as we uncovered the mystery. There’s plenty of legends going around and plenty of misinformation circulating on the internet about him, so it’s been interesting to separate fact from fiction.
“Most people don’t know he was born in France and was a military brat. He’s actually got a very diverse background and has seen a lot of people and things. He’s a far more interesting person that what you might see on the surface.”
Labor of love
The team began making their film over two years ago after Corleone and Epple began initial discussions about the feasibility of the project. The film was still in post-production just a few weeks ago as they were putting the finishing touches on it to make it the best it can be.
The journey has turned into a labor of love for the filmmakers and one that has revealed surprises around just about every corner, some of which won’t be revealed until the film’s premiere.
“Out in Memphis, everybody’s got an Elvis story,” Hastings said. “In Fort Wayne, Indiana, everybody’s got a mullet man story. So, throughout the film, we tried to have an eclectic blend of people take part in it in order to help tell the story. We were like, who are these people? He’s got family, of course, but going beyond that, who else makes sense?
“We interviewed DJs because they always see him at these events and bar people who see him regularly, but we also wanted to dig deep so we actually interviewed his hairstylist, the lady that has done his hair for the last 25 years. We also included some historians and intellectual people of the community so we could complete the time line from people like Chief Little Turtle and Johnny Appleseed to the Mullet Man.”
Though Fort Wayne natives certainly will get references to the Summit City and smile at the corresponding inclusion of some local landmarks, personalities, and the use of a soundtrack featuring music from local bands Left Lane Cruiser and The Illegals, Epple and Hastings wanted to make sure that audiences outside of the Fort Wayne area were be able to relate to the film as well.
“As we were developing the story,” Epple said, “one of our goals was to make sure we really hit hard in Fort Wayne, but for people outside of Fort Wayne, we wanted to have an overall message that everyone can relate to, as well. We think the end of the film sums it up and does that for us. We think people in Indianapolis or someplace else can enjoy this film, too. They can laugh and learn a little bit about Fort Wayne while watching people chasing this guy around and finding why he is so important to us.”
Warm and Humorous
Humor is used throughout the film, but the tone is not one that will leave people thinking that it is at all mean-spirited. It’s not. It’s a true documentary in every sense of the word. Epple, Hastings, and Corleone know people have watched the trailers and have seen the purposely outlandish humor included in them.
But Epple said he is confident the film is representative of the more than two years of work he and the rest of the crew have put into its completion and is sure it does justice to the story of the legendary Silver Fox.
“Our goal in making the documentary was to really find out who Patrick is,” Epple said. “The final product is going to be far and above everybody’s expectations. The amount of talent that we have behind it has made making this film a huge passion project. I think people are going to be blown away.”
“The mullet represents a freedom that we rarely experience ourselves,” Epple continued. “I think a lot of people like the mullet because it’s a representation of everything they wish they could do. Here’s a guy who has rocked that mullet for how long now and just doesn’t care. Here we are, always worried about the way we look and how we do our hair or whether we should wear a hat or not because we’re going bald. He doesn’t. Patrick does what he wants. He is who he is. He’s not growing a mullet to impress anyone. It’s just what he likes and I think that’s a lesson that can resonate with everybody.”