Col Muammar Gaddafi has always straddled the unsettling line between mirth and menace. An odd fellow with a mercurial gaze, some very strange ideas (you should read his little Green Book) and a readiness to murder and maim to stay in power, which he has done successfully for more than four decades.
I interviewed him at Benghazi airport in 1992, when he was busy welcoming fellow Arab leaders to witness the opening of a giant irrigation project in the desert. There were many strange and unforgettable nuances about that day.
First Col Gaddafi displayed an obsession with cloaks. He insisted on wearing a different coloured Batman style cape for every leader who stepped off the plane. When he approached former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a silver number, Col Gaddafi suddenly stopped in his tracks on the red carpet, threw a tantrum, ripped off the silver cape and demanded a green one, proffered to him by a nervous looking sidekick. No one that day could explain to me the logic behind the colour-coding. But Col Gaddafi clearly cared deeply.
The second thing was the interview itself for BBC Radio. Col Gaddafi was sitting next to the then President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak on an ornate, golden sofa. They were sipping glasses of mint tea. A few days earlier former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had survived a coup against him, a coup which Col Gaddafi was one of the very few world leaders to vigorously support.
I asked him whether he didn't feel a little isolated now. Suddenly his answers switched from good English to angry Arabic. I couldn't understand what he was saying, and there was no translator. But suddenly, I felt a tight grip on both my arms and found myself getting removed from the premises. I wasn't going to argue with my handlers.
One of the men escorting me out turned round to me and said, waving a fleshy finger with a huge gold ring: "You must never say these things to the leader. Ever!" I never got another chance.
There are many reasons why London, Rome and Washington view the chaos in Libya with unease: the fate of their nationals still stuck at oil installations in the desert and the future of a tribally divided country, which does not have the luxury of the Egyptian army to keep it united.
All signs are that the army has split. The threat of real civil war is tearing at Libya, and the future of oil contracts is uncertain. Ever since George W Bush and Tony Blair engineered the international rehabilitation of the Dear Brother Leader, as the Colonel is less frequently referred to at home, the power and construction companies have been piling in to make a mint.
The regime may have been corrupt and brutal, but it became very easy to deal with if you were a foreign company. You knew exactly who to call and how to please. Those lines of communication have now been blurred if not cut.
Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya - could Saudi Arabia be next? The oil futures market yearns for the recent past. US President Barack Obama's condemnation of the violence yesterday was relatively muted, considering the number of deaths. As Col Gaddafi contemplates his future, he may even have been breathing a sigh of relief. Libya's revolution is still very much a work in progress.