- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

Petra Nemcova’s life once revolved exclusively around runway shows and photo shoots for top fashion magazines. All that changed, however, after the glamorous Czech supermodel and her fiance decided to spend their Christmas holiday in Thailand last year.

When the tsunami hit, they were lounging in their bungalow on the beach. Ten hours later, Miss Nemcova was found clinging to a palm tree, her legs battered and pelvis broken. Doctors said it was a miracle she had survived after losing half of her blood. Her fiance, British photographer Simon Atlee, wasn’t as lucky. She never saw him again.

While recuperating in a hospital over the next two weeks, Miss Nemcova vowed to help fellow victims among the Thai people, and Wednesday night she made good on her promise at the United States-Thailand Amity for Charity Foundation’s benefit to assist the 1,200 children orphaned in the disaster.

“I’m 90 percent recovered in mind and body, but I still have a couple of steps in the healing process to go through,” Miss Nemcova admitted as she greeted guests in an eye-popping rose silk Dolce & Gabbana dress during a pre-dinner VIP reception at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Now, her major concern is to help rebuild schools and hospitals and address children’s psychological needs in the hardest-hit areas.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed at the highest levels in Thailand, which was made abundantly clear when the heir to the Thai throne, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was ushered into the room by event organizer Esther Coopersmith amid a bevy of security men and bowing courtiers.

“I’ve read a lot about you in the papers,” the prince , 52, said with a little grin that helped break the ice in the protocol-conscious crowd, which included Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The prince and his daughter, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, , a recent Cornell University law school grad, made their grand entrance into the ballroom to the sounds of the Thai national anthem, then joined about 400 guests for a four-course gourmet feast prepared by top Thai chefs from Bangkok, New York and San Francisco.

If Miss Nemcova thought her duties had ended with dessert, she was mistaken. Ruth Westheimer, the inimitable psychosexual therapist of TV fame, called her to the stage to help with yet another excruciating live charity auction before Marvin Hamlisch’s piano gig.

“Don’t let anybody touch you unless they give you money,” the diminutive “Dr. Ruth” instructed the 6-foot-tall model after ordering her to display a $19,000 Cartier watch to prospective buyers at their tables.

Miss Nemcova laughed good-naturedly along with the audience, then swept through the room to coax bids as no one else possibly could have done.

“How can I resist?” one previously reluctant bidder said after upping the price another $1,000. “She’s as sweet and generous as she is beautiful.”

[-] Kevin Chaffee


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