Ed “RockDaMullet” Santos, a Creative Force Behind Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Dies at 51

RIP RockDaMullet (YouTube screen grab)

Today, OC lost one of its unsung cultural heroes–a big idea man, legendary goofball and beloved, behind-the-scenes architect that helped companies like Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Black Flys and Vans Warped Tour become household names. Ed Santos, better known by his media persona RockDaMullet, died this morning in his current hometown of Indiana due to complications with the flu and pneumonia after being in a medically induced coma for several days. He was 51.

The Cerritos native spent years being an artistic renaissance man in OC both as an artists, marketing whiz and all around creative whose trademark look– back length mullet, tribal ear plug piercings and black shades–made him an easily recognizable presence at Wahoo’s events, festivals, concerts and especially in the world of MySpace where he grew a massive following to match his outlandish hairdo. Starting with Wahoo’s founder Wing Lam in the early 2000s (Lam first opened the chain’s first restaurant in Costa Mesa in 1988), Santos worked with the company from the late ‘90s until 2014.  After Wahoo’s, Santos also helped run United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association before packing up and moving his family to Indiana in order to give his autistic daughter in a more quiet, rural life away from all of the SoCal craziness he’d been a part of for years.

Santos’ ability to master guerilla marketing techniques that identified with younger, more diverse customers around OC gave Wahoo’s its maverick edge in the fast casual dining world and appealed to the style and taste of a changing tide in local culture that would later be mimicked in other parts of the world. It was food that appealed to surfers, athletes, business suit types and punk rockers alike.

“I started going to events with Wing and I started to learn a lot more in the world of marketing but more guerilla marketing, not your standard, text book marketing,” Santos said in a video interview in 2013. “And through that teaching I was able to develop networking relationships  and I was able to marry art with relation marketing and branding and networking and tying all that in together in the world of social media before there was even a name for it. I was somehow able to figure this mess out.”

One of his first ideas for Wahoo’s was inspired by his previous job working in sticker production at Black Flys. He literally used every wall of Lam’s restaurants as marketing canvases for action sports brands, slapping wall-to-wall collages of their stickers all around the restaurant. That style helped sell the Wahoo’s brand to the people involved in those industries. Inevitably, Wahoo’s would also appear at any local action sports events and concerts which helped it become one of the first restaurants that was also doubling as a lifestyle brand, similar to what Black Flys became.

As news of Santos’ passing spread, an outpouring of support for Santos and his family on social media speaks to the lasting presence he had on local culture even though he hadn’t been around for several years. The week before his death, Santos posted three times on Instagram about his failing health–the final post being the most concerning.

“They asked if I had a living will and trust already. Why the F would anyone be asking that.” he writes.

Keep em coming prayer warriors. Much ❤️ and social thanks to my wife who’s sat up all night to monitor my breathing. If this continues, they are looking at ICU by tonight.”

A GoFundMe campaign set up yesterday by his younger brother Nelson detailed Ed’s rapidly declining health. Unfortunately, Santos never recovered.

“These unexpected severe conditions are rapidly deteriorating Ed’s health. We’re fearing for the worst, but excessively praying for a miracle,” Nelson writes. “Much needed support from everyone who knows him personally, knew him from the past and following him on social media is needed more than I can ever hope for.”

Santos is survived by his wife Missy, his daughter Abcde, and son Jared “Robert”.

37 Replies to “Ed “RockDaMullet” Santos, a Creative Force Behind Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Dies at 51”

    1. You know what dude, it’s in pretty bad taste that you say something negative on a memorial article. You are welcome to your opinions, but in times such as these it is in good taste to keep your negative opinion to yourself. You may not have been impressed with Ed, but he was a good man and was involved in much volunteerism and community outreach here in OC and his new home in Indiana. He touched many lives, mine included.

    2. That’s really an unnecessary comment. No matter if you were or weren’t, this is not a time or place to air that. You could have continued about your day instead of saying something so insensitive given the light of the current situation.

    3. Ernest, no one’s very impressed with you right now but maybe you’ve had a hard time and have some issues to deal with which make you come across as not very nice. Who knows, but whatever the reason, I really hope that you dont feel like you have to say something like that about a person who’s just passed away.

    4. Ed was and forever will be a AMAZING ENTITY. His presence will be missed but NEVER FORGOTTEN. Ed was and is my freind who will be FOREVER IN MY HEART.

    5. You are an idiot! I’m sure everyone here shares the same opinion about you! I hope when you pass people don’t treat you with the same disrespect that you are dishing out here!

      Love to your family Ed…..

    6. To Ernest Borgia,
      As they say here in the South,
      “ Bless Your Poor Lil Heart”
      Eddie was My Dear Friend & an Uncle to my daughter Melanie; he had an Amazing Heart & a Beautiful Soul & was Highly Intelligent as well as charismatic 💞 Eddie was Definitely One of a Kind!! You will be Forever Loved & Missed By Us!!
      R.I.P Eddie Santos👼

    7. To Ernest Borgia,
      As they say here in the South,
      “ Bless Your Poor Lil Heart”
      Eddie was My Dear Friend & an Uncle to my daughter Melanie; he had an Amazing Heart & a Beautiful Soul & was Highly Intelligent as well as charismatic 💞 Eddie was Definitely an Amazing Father & Husband! He was One of a Kind!! You will be Forever Loved & Missed By Us!!
      R.I.P Eddie Santos👼

    8. F*ck you bro..Ed was a good friend of mine since the early 90’s at Games Plusoff 19th…your a little punk ass b*tch hiding behind you keyboard..let’s meet up and discuss this?

  1. So saddened to hear that Eddie passed. I met him at Wahoo’s and we were able to create several great campaigns together. I always remember that even when he was busy and on deadline – he would stop everything as if you were the most important person in the room. He Charisse’s life and live his family and friends so much. Eddies passion for others success was inspirational and he will be missed.

  2. Ed was an amazing human being. Always an advocate in raising awareness for autism, reflecting true compassion and unconditional love and completely selfless. Appreciative of the years I was able to grow up with him. Initially through social, then through concerts and continued through social networking amd marketing. My sincerest condolences to Missy, Abcde, Jared and the other family he leaves behind. Rest in paradise my friend.

  3. I’m wondering what is the cause of his death? Is it his eating the wrong food or he does not have any essential minerals supplements? Also, there is a high death rate when someone is admitted to any hospitals.

  4. Ed aka RockdaMullet was a 5 star human being. I first saw Ed at a local mudrun, in Irwindale back in 2012, immediately liked how unique he was. I kept doing the mud runs, and eventually Ed friended (or I friended him) on IG. Although I never actually got to meet him face to face( the few times that I did see him at the mud runs, I was too shy to say anything) He and I kinda bonded on IG, with communications here and there, he would comment funny stuff on my page, and vice versa. Ed was fiercely protective and passionate of ANYBODY w disabilities, loved and protected his daughter Abcde, would volunteer at events for people w disabilities amongst many things, would pretty much do anything to right what was and is wrong w this planet. He stood up for his believes til the end, Ed was such a great fucking guy and this world is a lot more shittier w him gone. My heart breaks for Abcde, his wife, his family, his thousands of friends and followers all felt that gut punch yesterday when we heard the news. I am devistated. Godspeed Ed, we were all lucky to have you here w us. Ed, we are all hurting w this tragic loss, and I hope, wherever you are, you can guide your awesome daughter, she will no FN doubt become a phenomenal human, just like you were.

    “You had one job!”

  5. That first post is just fucked up. I will leave it at that.
    I never met you face to face but I see your work and have admired it from afar. When it comes to guerilla marketing campaigns there are a few that stand out. Shepard Fairey’s work with Andre the Giant, WU-Tang clan and the bombardment of stickers and the work you put in at Wahoo’s in SoCal. I strongly believe that Wahoo’s Fish Taco wouldn’t have been as big of a success without your work. I must say that I am impressed with you. RIP ED Rock the Mullet

  6. Ed and I were close friends. I lived and worked in Costa Mesa for many years. We attended the O.C. Fair together many times and I was amazed at how many friends he had. My kids barely got to ride the rides because he couldn’t go ten steps without a friwnd or acquaintance stopping to say hello. But hanging with him was always a pleasure. That cat knew everyone in the industry, which I was also a part of. He always would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. True class act. I can’t count the number of good times we shared at Goat Hill Tavern and Wahoo’s. What an amazing guy, and he motivated me to be a better person. We love you Ed. Rest in peace my brother.

  7. Ed and I worked together at Black Flys in the late 90’s. Ed was one of the most generous and kind humans I have ever known. He adored all people from all walks of life. We should all try to “live like Ed”

  8. Ed..we have been buds since like 94 or some shit..unfortunately the last time I saw Ed in person was at our friend Lee’s funeral…he was a staple at Games Plus off 19th in Costa Mesa in the 90’s…we had so many good times man…I’m so sorry for your families loss..especially Abcde…she is such a great kid and it kills me to know you arent there with her…please donate too his go fund me his brother has set up in his memory. It’s the least we can do for a OC legend…RIP brother…you are missed…

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