by Mark McDermott
Sir Henry the Octopus first came to life at El Segundo High School.
His benefactor, Casey Montz, was a student at ESHS and possessed a natural artistic gift. One day the AP art teacher announced a special assignment. Students were asked to make 12 different pieces of art from one theme. As his fellow students began to plan all sorts of deep and profound topics, Montz sat there, at a loss. He had no idea what to create.
His bewilderment simmered in his mind as he went to other classes. An inveterate scribbler, he found his pencil moved almost on its own, drawing in each class as if searching for something. Finally, in biology class, something came out of the scribbles. It had a big head, and arms kept sprouting until they were eight.
Sir Henry the Octopus had arrived.
“I ended up painting for the next few weeks,” Montz said. “And then I just thought, ‘There are these great pieces, I love these great photographic ideas… It would be kind of funny to see this everyday picture, but it’s an octopus living this normal life. Basically like a person.
Sir Henry began life in watercolor sketches — “Because he was basically a sea creature,” Montz said — that show him standing in line at In-N-Out Burger, working in an office (phone in one tentacle, tank top in another , office basketball in another) and heads to the beach in a bus (holding newspaper in two tentacles, coffee in another).
“He had a tank at the time, an H2O tank instead of an oxygen tank, so he could have survived, basically,” Montz said. “And then, over the years, I had him slowly acclimate to normal air. So now he doesn’t have a tank, but he’s still living on land, on land, hanging out.”
Montz graduated from ESHS in 2014 and Sir Henry graduated with him.
“Kind of like a little friend,” Montz said, “through hard times and good times.”
In the following years, Sir Henry began to appear further afield as Montz allowed him to entertain himself in a different way – he was in the movies, for example, drawn to the cast of Dazed and confusedwearing a cowboy hat and holding a Buzz Lightyear around his neck with a tentacle c Toy game 2and instead of Ferris Bueller – sunglasses, hat and raincoat – standing cool next to the ’61 Ferrari 250 Spyder famously borrowed and crashed in this film.
But this year, Sir Henry finally takes a starring role. Montz will be a featured artist at the El Segundo Art Walk, and Sir Henry will be appearing live during ESAW at El Segundo Brewing Company, where Henry has been hired as a very different kind of summer intern and graces the cans of a new “Octo Pack” line of drinks .
Montz likens it to a rock star’s first major record deal.
“We finally signed,” he said. “And this is the cover of the big album.”
This is something that has been brewing for a long time. ESBC’s Eli Buck, whose official title is Dream Weaver (Art Director/Marketing Manager), first heard of Sir Henry when he was still a very young octopus.
“I met Casey about eight years ago when he was serving olive oil at DeLuca,” Buck recalled. “A super nice kid, he had great energy about him and he mentioned his art – he must have been 17 or 18 and he told me about this octopus that lives on land. The octopus was wearing this tank at the time and I just thought that was so clever.
El Segundo being El Segundo, Buck and Montz kept in touch by meeting around town. Montz’s brother, Riley, buys the Richmond Bar & Grill and Casey starts working there; Buck, like most people in town, was a regular visitor.
By this time, Sir Henry the octopus had taken on a life of its own. It had become part of a mural and eventually made its way onto social media. Henry had a following. Friends, acquaintances and regulars at Richmond Bar & Grill often asked about Henry’s whereabouts.
“They were like, ‘What’s he going to do next?’ What’s his next move?”’ Montz recalled.
Buck continued to follow Montz’s art—the continuing adventures of Sir Henry, of course, but also the design work Montz began doing as a student at Santa Monica College and later for commercial clients who needed logos and other design assistance. After a few years, Buck asked Montz to design a t-shirt for ESBC. He would eventually create several ESBC shirts. Some were elegantly decorated with the town’s water tower and the three telltale smokestacks that herald El Second from the beach, others were pure Christmas.
“He really nailed it by representing the city with the colors,” Buck said. “And they just had that modern vintage look that we love. He totally nailed it.
Early this summer, as ESBC was planning a new series of beers where their brewers would be able to be as creative as they wanted, Buck realized the time had come. Not only will Sir Henry be featured on the cans of all three beers in the series, but the brews will also be named after him – the Octo Series Trilogy. The first of the beers, Old School DIPA, was released on July 22. On the box, Sir Henry can be seen hard at work, his beer recipe in a notebook in front of him as he reads Beer Paper at his workbench, one tentacle on the canning line, another on the other side of the brewery, lining up four packs.
Buck said it’s no exaggeration to call Henry a star intern. He is a very successful multi-tasker.
“Kind of like a classic small town story,” Buck said. “You know, he got a great job at a local business. And business is going well, and he’s doing well. So we are delighted to have Sir Henry on board.
The Octo series will follow Henry’s journey through his apprenticeship, from brewing, to canning, to working as a pub bar.
“When you have an eight-handed bartender, you can pour a lot of beers at once,” Buck said.
Henry branched out in other directions as well. Montz’s father, Wayne, is a woodworker, and for the past few years the two have collaborated—Sir Henry the Octopus appears with surprising elegance in woodwork panels.
Montz begins to realize that Sir Henry has also taken root in his life. This octopus is here to stay.
“I think he’s going to be my friend for a while,” Montz said. “The cool thing is that it started as a high school thing and it started as a doodle and it just keeps growing more and more. Having my dad involved in it was really cool. Just going through the years, there are more options and more ways to express Sir Henry.
The El Segundo Art Walk is on August 27, Saturday night, but some festivities will begin on Friday. Montz will be at the brewery tonight, but there is some question as to whether Sir Henry will make it. However, a strong rumor suggests that Henry will be on ESBC on Saturday night.
“I hope Sir Henry may appear in some way,” said Buck. “But we’ll see. That’s up to Casey.
El Segundo Art Walk is Saturday, August 27th from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM ER