Tuesday, October 02, 2007


In the mid 1990's I worked for Citibank as a Customer Service Representative. It wasn't exactly what I had gone to College for, but it paid the bills (well, most of them). Anyway, I worked the overnight shift answering phones, mostly from confused card holders, and sometimes even angry card holders (more than sometimes actually but that's material for another post another time). These card holders came from all walks of life, and occassionally, even famous ones.

Some well known personalities I had the pleasure to speak with over the years were Riddick Bowe, Catherine Bach, Christopher Cross, James Spader, and Tom Petty's first wife Jane Benyo (yes, she's not the famous one, but she's fewer degrees away from Tom than Kevin Bacon). Anyhow, these folks were all quite pleasant to speak with, but none of them left the lasting impression as a lesser known famous person with a very unusual name. He was born Joe Engressia, but had legally changed his name to Joybubbles.


I became familiar with Joybubbles through his repeated calls to customer service to correct an on-going problem with his credit card. The problem was with the way Citibank had listed his name on the card. Instead of JOYBUBBLES, it read as JOY BUBBLES. That's right, there was a space in the middle of the name. You see, our system wasn't designed to handle names that didn't contain both a first and last name. If either were missing, the card creation process would simply error. To make the card then, someone had to manually intervene by splitting his name into two distinct components. I recall someone telling me that this problem had been resolved for Cher by entering a period for her last name (which would have showed up on her card as CHER .).

Well, when Joybubbles first began calling about this issue, he spoke to a representative named Susan, who happened to be a smoker. Us smokers would huddle outside in the cruel South Dakota winter air swapping stories about the unusual calls we had taken since the last break, and believe me, we never experienced a shortage of fresh material. During one of these "smokefests", Susan told us she had spoken to a person named Joybubbles. Having never heard a more unusual name (ignoring Moon Unit and Dweezil of course), I was intrigued. Susan told us that Joybubbles was an extremely polite person, but as a matter of principle, wanted his card corrected, since his name was not "Joy Bubbles", and a period at the end was not satisfactory since his name was not "Joybubbles .".

As Susan worked with him to correct his problem, she became Joybubbles' favorite representative. Whenever he called in, he would insist on dealing only with her. I had the pleasure of transferring him to her on a couple of occassions, and in the short conversations I had with him, he seemed like a very pleasant individual.

To this day I don't know if Susan was able to get that space between his name removed, or if she had to resort to the Cher period. I am glad this was an issue though, or I may never have heard of a man named Joybubbles. His name popped into my head a few days ago, and after doing a google search I was surprised to learn that Joybubbles was a famous person, and sadly had only recently passed away. I wish I had a better tribute to his life than to say I heard his voice on the phone a few times, but unfortunately that's all I knew of him until I read about his life. Here's to you Joybubbles, I hope you've found your neverland.

Update: Here is a short video on youtube that shows a young joybubbles in action during his phone phreaking days.
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1 comment:

  1. I looked up Joybubbles and read a little on him. Quite fascinating; all his phone antics and such. And ironic that he was calling Citibank all the time. Wonder if he ever met up with Michael Jackson, seems they would have a lot in common, being stuck in childhood and all. I agree with him that the name puts a smile on ones face, and whenever I think of it, it will put a smile on mine!


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