Anna Margherita Cataldi, who just passed away, was a force of nature. Italian humanitarian, journalist, film producer, and author of several books, rarely was there a crisis in the world that she did not write about, visited or raised money for the needy. A close friend, she was generous, bossy and had more acquaintances in New York than I did. In fact, she had a rolodex few could match. After an Oscar ceremony, I watched her call Sydney Pollack and Michael Douglas, among others. This was done from my living room as she enjoyed my Upper West Side apartment, close to a pied-à-terre she once rented.
At the United Nations, she was named a “messenger of peace” by then UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan. Among her other achievements she created a project to distribute a a “passport” version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for children. She traveled to Sarajevo – where she heard the news of the death of her adult son. She went to Afghanistan a dozen times and said the Taliban’s enforcement of the “burqa” on women was not the only issue.
Ms. Cataldi devised the treatment for the film,”Out of Africa,” having researched the life and books of and about Karen Blixen in Denmark and elsewhere. She was given the title of “executive producer” and once joked that brought her a fortune of $60K. She also went to Somalia with actress Audrey Hepburn, whom she honored in one of her books.
In 2007 Cataldi became Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization in its “Stop the TB” program and traveled to numerous African nations to campaign for cures. After leaving the United Nations, Cataldi was nominated Goodwill Ambassador for the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, known as ECRE. In her two-year stay she traveled to Hungary, Malta, Tunisia and Libya.
On 9/11 Anna tried to land in New York and was shuffled to St John’s, Atlantic and other places. She wrote movingly of the crisis for several publications. She was a contributor to El País, Epoca, La Repubblica, L’Espresso, La Stampa, Le Règle du Jeu, The Nation, Rolling Stone and, The International Herald Tribune, among others.
Anna was married to the late Giorgio Falck, a steel magnate, during which time she admits to being a jet setter – but Audrey Hepburn changed all that. She had three children, one of whom died. Her daughter Jacaranda, the acknowledged daughter of the late Carlo Caracciolo, is a publisher in Rome. Anna was born in Turin and has a sister and a brother.
She sent me an email when she was about to turn 80, two years ago, saying: “For the moment we have to be just grateful to be still up on our feet and keep going. What else? I love you dear, big hug”