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5. Iron Eyes Cody, a.k.a. The Crying Indian
Americans of a certain age well remember the "Keep America Beautiful" public-service announcement released around Earth Day in 1971. The spot featured an actor called Iron Eyes Cody paddling through scummy harbors and walking through landfills as the announcer reminded us that "People start pollution and people can stop it." At the dramatic end of the commercial, a kid in a passing car tosses a bag of fast-food garbage at the feet of Cody, who turns to the camera and reveals the most famous tear in commerical history. (Watch the ad.)
As Snopes.com tells it, Cody was born Espera DeCorti in Louisiana in 1904 to Italian-immigrant parents. Sometime in the 1920s, he started passing himself off as native American and typically dressed in mocasins and buckskins for most of his life. Though not born an Indian, he lived as one and insisted against documentation to the contrary that he was one. He married a native American woman and adopted two Indian boys. He died in 1999.
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