Shake, Rattle, and Donuts: Questions for Mark Alan Stamaty

I've had two Mark Alan Stamaty stages in my life. The first was in the '80s, when his political cartoon, Washingtoon, used to run in my local paper. Washingtoon starred the ambitiously opaque congressman Bob Forehead, and it was like no other political cartoon I'd seen. Rather than the traditional single-panel caricatures of real people or allegorical animals, Stamaty made up preposterous tales (but no more preposterous than was happening on the rest of the political pages) about made-up people and crammed so much text and art into his allotted square inches that you half expected them to leak out into the op-eds from Henry Kissinger or Mary McGrory they shared a page with. (By the way, Showtime made a short-lived TV series out of Washingtoon in 1985? Starring Corbin Bernsen? Who knew?!?)

Washingtoon had so much overflowing invention that I shouldn't have been surprised, two decades later, when I discovered, through the reprinted edition of the glorious Who Needs Donuts?, that Stamaty also had a career drawing picture books for kids. Insane and beautiful picture books. I've written my ode to Who Needs Donuts? already here, but having Stamaty lay claim on my imagination once again made me curious about the man himself. Where had he come from? What was he doing now? Well, I'm glad to say he has a new book that helps to answer both questions. Just in time for Elvis's 75th birthday, he has written a new picture book, Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!: How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me and Mom. Perfect for showing kids (and reminding boomers) just how earthshaking it was when Elvis burst out of the radio for the first time, Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down! tells Stamaty's own story of being transformed by rock & roll at age eight in 1955 and learning to channel its power, first through a new hairstyle and then, in the book's thrilling finale, by performing an Elvis impersonation in front of an entire Cub Scout banquet. (An act, by the way, that he has further refined as an adult--even once in the White House before President Clinton.)

I was able to send Stamaty a few questions about the new book and his work, and he not only replied with answers, but with an illustration too, in which my beloved Sam (from Donuts) makes a cameo, along with some of the bizarre sorts of figures that populate the delirious margins of Donuts (in the new book, the background is reserved for more timely '50s elements like floral wallpaper and Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cards). The illustration is above, the questions and answers are below (including the revelation that there really was a Sad Old Woman who inspired the Donuts story). Thanks, Mark! What was it like to discover Elvis and rock & roll in 1956? Do you think every generation makes the same kind of discovery, or was that moment one of a kind?

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