Courtesy photos Patrick Kopacz is a fixture around Fort Wayne and now the subject of a film by local documentarians.
Documentary producers Mike Colone, left, and Dan Epple, right, pose with Patrick Kopacz, the subject of the documentary “American Mullett: Legend of the Silver Fox.” It will premiere Monday at the Three Rivers Festival.
Friday, July 12, 2019 1:00 am
Film delves into 'Mullet Man'
Documentary on local legend to debut at TRF
Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: Documentary premiere of “American Mullet: Legend of the Silver Fox”
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Where: Ruoff Festival Plaza, Three Rivers Festival, Headwaters Park, 333 S. Clinton St.
Admission: Free; for more information, go to www.legendofthesilverfox.com
Patrick Kopacz is known to many – especially those who take part in the nightlife of Fort Wayne – as the Mullet Man.
Kopacz, who turns 72 in August and patronizes area taverns and bars, has become a local legend, instantly recognizable for his long silver hair stretching down his back and wearing a 1970's belly shirt to show off his front.
A reporter for The Journal Gazette has tried for weeks to find Kopacz to talk to him but with no luck.
Though he only uses a flip phone and abstains from social media, there's a Facebook page with more than 5,800 members devoted to sightings of Kopacz, some of which go back more than 30 years.
“People will see him at a bar and go up and take a selfie with him,” said Mike Colone, a quality engineer who also flies Blackhawk helicopters for the Indiana Air National Guard.
“He's kind of like Fort Wayne's Bigfoot, and there will be sightings of him.”
Colone, 37, and buddies Dan Epple, 36, and Ryne Hastings, 29, have created a documentary on Kopacz called “American Mullett: Legend of the Silver Fox.”
They finished filming in early June, and the documentary will be shown at 9 p.m. July 15 at Ruoff Festival Plaza at Headwaters Park during the Three Rivers Festival.
They found out six months ago they were premiering at the festival, but they already had a sense of the quality of their subject.
“As we are filming, people are very protective about Pat,” Epple said. “There's something about Pat, and that is what we are chasing, but there is something about Pat that people are just drawn toward.
“I don't care what gender or race you are, it doesn't matter, everybody has some sort of fascination with him.”
Epple is the executive producer, Colone the producer and Hastings may have the toughest job as the director to make everything fit. A 70-minute film might mean Kopacz gives up a little of his mystique and privacy, but that's actually what attracted the filmmakers.
“We want to preserve his legend and part of that is keeping the folkloric aspect of it going,” Hastings said. “When you think about what folklore is, it's based on truth but also a lack of knowledge about the person.”
During the film, they compare Kopacz, who doesn't care what people think of his appearance or clothing choices, to Fort Wayne folklore heroes such as Johnny Appleseed, Mad Anthony Wayne and even Disco Harry from the 1970s.
“Mike and I hung out with him several times after the start of filming because we wanted to make sure he was OK with us doing this,” Epple said. “We said from the beginning, 'Pat, we don't know where this is going, but if you don't want to do this, just let us know and we'll pull the plug.' Pat told us several times, 'I don't care what you do, it's cool with me, but I don't want anything to do with it.'”
The three also checked with other family members to make sure they accepted what they were trying to accomplish. Though the initial project may have started because Kopacz can be seen as an oddity, that's not how things ended up.
“What we all really want out of life is to be comfortable and do what we want to do and be who we are,” Epple said. “That is exactly what Pat is and does.”
Hastings said: “He has his values in order. Patrick is a guy who goes out with nowhere to go and nothing to do. He's not looking for anything profound and yet answers come. That's why people like Patrick. He is who he is, and he's OK with that.
“If I can live a little bit more like that, if I can get off my phone a little bit and spend more time with my family and the people who matter; ... if people can get some of that same takeaway, then they are going to get something out of this film.”
According to the filmmakers, Kopacz was born in France, grew up as a military brat and his father worked for the CIA.
He came to Fort Wayne during the 1960s, started growing his mullet during the 1970s and was a line supervisor at General Electric before retiring.
Other than that, there's not a lot known publicly about Kopacz. Other than a few trims up on top, he hasn't gotten his hair cut in three years. Though he favors Coors Light, Kopacz doesn't drink much and eats very healthy. He's hard to pin down with a stereotype or cliché.
“As the time progressed and we learned more and more about his background, you might assume he's just some local drunk who goes to the bars at night, but that's not it at all,” Colone said. “He likes the music, the people and being out. He's retired and that is just what he likes to do.”
He also likes his privacy. Though Kopacz family members have guaranteed they will be at the premiere, as of press time there's no such commitment from Kopacz. He protects his privacy and is elusive, Epple said.
However, a reporter finally gets a number for Kopacz and makes a call.
“Excuse me, is this Patrick Kopacz? I'm calling to ask about the documentary film about you.”
“Sorry, you must have the wrong number.”
And then the person at the other end hung up.
As the movie makers said, elusive.