This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

Posts about Celebrities

Peter Graves, RIP

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: March 15, 2010 - 11:34 AM

1. Peter Graves’ obit omits one long-forgotten job: his voice-over and introduction work for a U of M documentary series called “Matrix.” At least I think it was called “Matrix.” I did one show back in the 80s; learned to drive a Zamboni, and cleared a rink. Graves introduced the show, but I’m sure he did so from a distant studio, or used a double. Possibly sent his brother to do the job as Peter Graves, wearing a Peter Graves mask.  I always waited for the moment when someone on “Mission: Impossible” would pull off one of those full-facial masks and they’d have the same face underneath. 


2. Where did the name Graves come from? Did he just make it up? No: I found a genealogy site that says “Graves” was his grandfather’s middle name. His brother, James, modified the family name “Aurness,” shaved off a vowel, and passed the savings along to you. (He’s still alive, by the way - Jim Phelps may no longer be with us, but Matt Dillon is.


3. I can’t find his boyhood home. The phone directories at the paper only go back to 1953, and the only Aurness left in town - a fellow named Olaf - lived on the north side, at 5208 Camden. Probably Graves’ uncle. Graves said he remembered the days when Minneapolis stopped at 54th, and the creek; he was a Southwest kid, which means he probably took in a movie or two at the Twins - later the Boulevard - at 53rd and Lyndale. (The video store that occupies the theater’s space just announced it will close; one of those Grandfather’s-Clock things, perhaps. This old shot shows the theater in '74, when the red sign was blue.)


4. Wikipedia says Graves was disappointed he didn’t get the role of Jim Phelps in the “Mission: Impossible” movie, but I prefer to think he was relieved when he saw the movie. They made Jim Phelps into a traitor, which is like making Steve McGarrett a Chinese spy.

Now taking requests

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: February 9, 2010 - 12:49 PM

 Found this while poking through the file cabinets in the library:

You may say: so? Well: it's a promotional still from "Roman Scandals," a movie released in 1933. (I've seen it, too. Not that hot, although it has a Busby Berkeley number with a very young, and extremely blonde, Lucille Ball.) When I come across things like this I'm reminded how deep our archives are, how far back they go; the tireless employees have digitized much, but there's only so much they can do. Don't know what we have unless you know what you're looking for.

So how about helping out? Send me the name of an old obscure person, a long-forgotten movie star, a politician, and I'll see what I can find. Everyone who had a half-second of fame walked in front of a camera somewhere, and chances are the picture has been undisturbed for decades. The other day, for example, I found this guy:


Not who you think. But close. Famous mostly for being the son of the guy with the sleepy eyes who just didn't care. Anyway: send your requests to, and I'll see what I can do. 





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