How many 81-year-old retired Jewish florists in Brooklyn were pen pals with Col. Muammar Gaddafi? At least one: Louis Schlamowitz.
The New York Post published a story Monday in which Schlamowitz, who has made writing to world leaders something of a hobby, calls the former Libyan dictator "a good pen pal."
“I felt it was very nice of him to take the time to write back to me, because I’m nobody special," Schlamowitz said.
Schlamowitz says he first wrote to Gaddafi in 1969, after he took power in Libya.
“I wished him well and congratulated him on being the new leader of Libya, hoping for many more years ahead of him,” Schlamowitz said. “At end of letter, I said I’d be very grateful if he would send a personal picture of himself to add to my Middle East collection.”
A month later, he got an autographed photograph in the mail and a note of thanks for the "kind message."
Schlamowitz started sending Gaddafi Christmas cards. In 1981, the pair traded thoughts on Israel. Then, in 1988, after the Lockerbie bombing, Schlamowitz stopped writing to Gaddafi. But six months ago, after the uprising in Libya began, Schlamowitz wrote to check in. The letter was returned unopened.
“I felt bad about how he was slaughtered," Schlamowitz told the Post. "They really gave him the one-two-three. But that’s politics.”
The New York Times offered some more details on Schlamowitz's many correspondences with the powerful. He has signed letters or photographs from Hosni Mubarak, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Bashar al-Assad, and Yasir Arafat, plus "Harry S. Truman, every living Supreme Court justice, every astronaut who walked on the moon, scores of movie stars, several popes, and John F., Robert F. and Edward M. Kennedy."
His exploits have garnered him attention from all sorts of media outlets over the years. And the CIA and the FBI have both paid him visits over the years. He told the Times he showed them his closet full of autographs.
“I said I collected them as a hobby, and they were amazed,” he said.