Big Ed Fenster and the Silver Anchor

Emile Gundelach, Big Ed Fenster and Merv Chapman (seated)

Emile Gundelach, Big Ed Fenster and Merv Chapman (seated)

Zephyrhills Florida was first incorporated as a city in 1914. According to the 2000 Census it was home to 10,833 residents, many of whom were over 65 and retired. It’s close to Tampa and to my home town of Plant City, and can boast to being the birthplace of several famous NASCAR drivers, an American Idol finalist and notorious Ghoul Carl Tanzier.

It was also, for a few years at least, the Body Modification capital of the world.

Far from the cultural meccas of the West Coast, Zephryhills was where advanced body modification pioneer Mr. Jay (Jack Yount) settled after his wife passed away and he retired from American Standard Plumbing, where his only full apprentice Mike Natali lived and where famed ‘Modification Doctor’ Ronald Brown made frequent visits for underground surgery. It  was also the home base of Big Ed Fenster and the Silver Anchor Body Jewelry Company. 1

Big Ed Fenster

Big Ed Fenster

At the time finding body piercing jewelry was no easy task. In the 1980s and early 1990s the companies manufacturing it were few and far between- not only was it not available at every mall or website, but even most tattoo shops didn’t have piercers to buy it from/install it for you. The Gauntlet. Spain’s Customs. Pleasurable Piercing. The Good Art Company, Toucan for gold, Wildcat in the UK and Fenster’s Silver Anchor were the big names at the time. Pre-internet. Some had catalogs while others had stapled and xeroxed price sheets, included with your order.  The business- owned by Big Ed Fenster who was a nudist, swinger and friend of both Jack and Sailor Sid Diller shared a name with Sid’s Ft. Lauderdale tattoo studio and was located in a small house that served as the offices/Ed’s living quarters and a few satellite trailers where the jewelry was manufactured.

Twenty something years later I still contend that Silver Anchor produced the finest quality body jewelry of all of the companies that were around back then. Open to interpretation I know, but during their “good years” with Mike Natali as GM and his partner Chuck as shop manager they put out top notch large gauge jewelry that had a mirror finish that I’ve never seen rivaled. Chuck was one of the few jewelers who, by hand, could produce a ring for a P.A. in 1/2” stock with an inner diameter of 1/2” with a threaded 5/8” ball that fit perfectly. Sure, some of their output would make a devoted APP acolyte cringe- the 00g externally threaded barbells I had made as a present to myself on my 17th birthday would likely cause a panic, but the threads were buffed for easy insertion and years later when I finally gifted them to a friend they had retained a perfect finish.

In my time visiting the shop- with Jack at first and then later to spend time with Mike and Chuck- it was always an adventure. My brother and I would meet up with Brian Skellie, Kevin Covella and Rob Moore,  and be in awe that we finally found people who ‘got’ it. Sometimes we’d continue on to Jack’s house and document a modification procedure, meet some of his out of town friends or just sit in the pool or hot tub and enjoy the company. The shift was taking place quickly from an older gay demographic to younger people who were taking on modification as a culture and not a kink and Jack was grooming us to help bridge the gap. Visits to Silver Anchor had them asking us questions about making ‘earlets’ since more people were stretching their lobes and despite having made custom 1/2 question mark shaped nipple jewelry they had never seen a stretched earlobe before mine.

Big Ed's genital jewelry.

Big Ed’s genital jewelry.

You have to appreciate dealing with Ed- who’s entire history was with piercing as a sexual thing being able to make some of the most complicated “u-tubes” imaginable but being completely vexed by the mechanics of a plug for stretched ear lobes. U-tubes were urethra tubes, which later went on to be universally referred to as ‘Princes Wands’ and Ed specialized in them. I remember sitting at his desk and seeing this MONSTER of a tube in his inbox (back when the inbox was actually a box and not an email account) that he had made for himself. At the thickest it was a full 5/8″ with 1″ balls and 4g posts for his apadravya. I remember thinking that it looked more like a billy club than a dick accessory. Ed looked at me sheepishly and said “my girlfriend likes me to wear this when I fuck her”.

My teen years were a little strange.

Ultimately, under Mike’s direction Silver Anchor became a powerhouse of a company. At the time it was a sellers market, and with body jewelry being as rare is at was it wasn’t uncommon to pay over $20, wholesale, for a 12g ring. When things get too big the stresses start to appear and eventually Mike and his partner moved on to start Bravo! Body Jewelry. Several of the jewelers Ed had hired did the same, and before long over saturation of a niche product flooded a small area. Tattoo shops started selling body jewelry. Tampa, Zephryhills nearest major city, saw a piercing only shop open under the name of Leather Tiger (that’s a story in and of itself- with a ‘head piercer’ who had to have PFIQ’s Pierce with a Pro open when he’d do a piercing) and once Jack Yount passed away things mostly fell apart.

In time Silver Anchor closed it’s doors. I’m not sure what happened to it’s backstock or employees. I’m not even sure what happened to Ed Fenster. But I still have a handful of my Silver Anchor jewelry still in their original bags that I keep for old times sakes.


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Notes:

  1. The Silver Anchor was located in Crystal Springs, Florida, which was a suburb of Zephyrhills

Shawn Porter has spent the majority of his life in the modification world. As a body modification archivist and documentarian, he has one of the most extensive collections of documents relating to the early American body modification community in existence. He edited the SPC website from 1995 to 2005, co-founded ModCon, was the host of ModCons 3.5 and 4, and created and hosted The Scarwars Project from 2004-2007. In 2011 Shawn launched Occult Vibrations, a blog devoted to traditional American tattoos with a focus on the occult and esoteric. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and their creepy pets Mr. Bailey Papers and L. RonBenet Ramsey.

7 comments

  1. Without Silver Anchor, I would never have been able to develop my piercing with large GA theory’s or develop the herbal after care that was instrumental in allowing them to heal properly. Thus, such a small thing can in time radically change a life, as without my herbal after care I would never have adventured into more extreme mods, like female circumcision.

    1. I really want to sit down with Michael Natali (formerly of Silver Anchor and Bravo!) and get an oral history recorded.

  2. Priceless. For those of us piercers who were working in those days, we all know nothing rivaled SA. My center-thread circular barbells worn in Fakir’s early Body Play magazines (as the first piercer with 2″+earlobes) were made by Silver Anchor with a 50 ton Hydrolic press. 1/2″ gauge–3/4″ Balls, 5/8″ ID–center thread–I remember talking to Ed about big ears–and eyelets….and yeah, that was funny conversation, but damn, those things were unreal… as were the Prince’s Wands…all museum pieces. Yup💎

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