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DiCaprio Helps Thailand Tsunami Victims

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Americans continue to open their hearts – and checkbooks – to the victims of the Dec. 26 disaster in Asia, with Leonardo DiCaprio now joining Sandra Bullock among the big-name donors. NBC also plans a celebrity-studded TV benefit set for Jan. 15.

The star of The Aviator pledged a “sizable” contribution to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, targeted for aid to devastated areas of Thailand, where his 2000 film The Beach was shot, his spokesman tells Reuters.

On Monday, Bullock donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to be used to provide relief supplies, financial support and technical assistance, the organization announced.

The goodwill gestures of the entertainment industry came as President Bush announced a massive private fund-raising drive to be headed by his two immediate predecessors, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

“I ask every American to contribute as they are able to do so,” President Bush said in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, with his father and Clinton at his side.

The official death toll from the South Asian tsunami, unleashed by a magnitude 9 earthquake off Indonesia the day after Christmas, has reached 150,000 victims, with millions of survivors left homeless, hungry and threatened by deadly disease.

Assisting in the rescue effort, NBC and its sister cable networks plans to simulcast an hour-long “music and celebrity-driven” benefit special featuring celebrities and musical performances, the NBC Universal Television Group said in a statement. Phone lines for viewer donations will be kept open throughout the evening.

Meanwhile, the network’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno announced a partnership with Harley-Davidson to auction a motorcycle autographed by future guests on the show, says the Hollywood Reporter. A previous motorcycle auction on behalf of 9/11 victims raised $360,000.

On a local level, New York affiliate WNBC-TV is rushing in to produce a commercial-free relief special on Wednesday that will be made available to other stations as a fund-raising tool. Its star roster includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Debra Messing and Tea Leoni.