Cause Celeb: Hollywood Opens its Hearts and Hands
January 4, 2005

It may be the greatest gift Oprah has ever given. In an "Extra" exclusive we have learned the queen of daytime talk is taking extraordinary steps, hiring an elite team of ex-marines to scour the jungle to search every corner for Fernando Bengochea, the good friend of her resident design guru, Nate Berkus.

Berkus was named one of People's Sexiest Men Alive in 2003, but right now, he's one of the most heartbroken; he survived the tsunami, but Fernando is still missing. Berkus will not leave Sri Lanka until Bengochea is found.

And that's not the only love story challenged by the disaster. Supermodel Petra Nemcova and boyfriend Simon Atlee were also torn apart by the tsunami. He's still missing, as rumors swirl he was set to propose to Petra, his live-in girlfriend of two years. Despite her personal pain, Petra allowed Us Weekly to photograph her in the hospital and all profits will go to the victims.

And "Extra" has learned about a lot more star support. Leonardo DiCaprio is in Rome and supposed to be promoting "The Aviator," but he really wanted to talk about the relief efforts. He's made a large contribution and is taking the pain personally: Leo spent four months in Thailand shooting his movie "The Beach."

"I had such a wonderful experience there and the people were so wonderful to me," Leo said. "What can you say other than it's a horrific situation for everyone involved."

Meanwhile, "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is also reaching out, auctioning off an autographed motorcycle for the victims. And Sandra Bullock has also helped, reportedly donating $1 million. Jackie Chan wrote a check for half-a-million Hong Kong dollars; and Lucy Liu was in London where Harrods department store is also reaching out. "It's a real good time to be in an environment where people are so giving," Lucy told reporters.

For the news media, the disaster has been a huge challenge being on the scene. Networks have been scrambling to send reporters to the devastated areas. We spoke to "The Today Show's" Ann Curry, who told us she's never seen anything like it: "I've seen disasters before -- specifically Kosovo -- but this one is so overwhelming, it's almost hard to describe."

We also spoke to Anderson Cooper, who is covering the disaster in Thailand for CNN. "It's hard to prepare yourself for what you see and the people you meet," Anderson told us. "You try to keep your eyes open, you try to keep your heart open, and that's really all you can do."

It could be the worst natural disaster of our generation, but the only silver lining, through all the suffering, is the outpouring of love and support throughout the world.

We contacted Oprah for a comment, but her reps told "Extra" they couldn't confirm the rescue story. Also, Tuesday, Steven Spielberg announced his family will donate $1.5 million to the relief efforts, and on January 15th, NBC will air a one-hour celebrity fundraiser.


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