Joe Engressia, Jr. (1949-2007) was born blind, in Richmond, Virginia. At an early age, he developed an interest in the communicative power of the telephone. Gifted with perfect pitch, he realized that if he whistled the exact tone of 2600Hz into the telephone receiver, he could make free phone calls and explore the inner workings of the telephone network. His incredible skill for hacking the network eventually awarded him the nickname "The Whistler," and he became famous among a group of underground telephone hackers who called themselves phone phreaks. The phone phreaks were mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s, when the telephone network was based on a system of tones.
In 1988, at the biological age of thirty-nine, Engressia declared himself the age of five forever. His decision was largely based on a childhood incident where he was sexually abused by a nun at a school for the blind. He also felt his mother had robbed him of his childhood, by focusing on his high I.Q. and activities centered on learning, not playing. Three years after "turning five" he legally changed his name to Joybubbles, created The Church of Eternal Childhood, and surrounded himself with stuffed animals and a cast of imaginary friends in his Minneapolis apartment. Joybubbles loved reading children's books and listening to episodes of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. In 1998, he traveled to Pittsburgh for a month, where he listened to hundreds of hours of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood at the University of Pittsburgh Library. The trip was financed with a job he took smelling pig manure for scientific research.
This is a story about overcoming loneliness and disability. The telephone provided Joybubbles with a means of escape, and a way to travel around the world without having to leave the safety of his tiny Minneapolis apartment. Friends, communities of like-minded people, and an audience to which he could broadcast his thoughts, were always just a phone call away. During the last thirteen years of his life, before passing away from congestive heart failure in the summer of 2007, Joybubbles hosted a radio program called 'Stories and Stuff,' on his answering machine. He updated the show weekly, and made the recording available to anyone who called the number +1 206-FEELING. Joybubbles loved to tell stories about his imaginary friends, telephones, eternal childhood, and sensual pleasures he enjoyed, like the smell of chlorinated swimming pools, eating gooey angel food cake, and listening to the sound of venetian blinds fluttering in the wind.
Using a mix of archival audio, video interviews with friends and family, Super8 film, and archival footage, this film celebrates the bizarre, imaginative, and wonderfully eccentric life of Joybubbles.