In On The King Of The Streets
CBS, November 26, 2008
From the 1960s to the '90s, CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt was
"On the Road," looking for stories and people where no one else was
looking. Kuralt died in 1997, and many of the people he discovered are
gone as well. But the stories haven't ended. That's why we sent CBS
News correspondent Steve Hartman to follow Kuralt's trail, "On the Road
In a city known for crazy drivers, he may have been the craziest. He
was a guy who cheats death by sometimes just a fraction of an inch …
just like he did when Charles Kuralt met him 23 years ago.
Back then, Kuralt asked David Leopold, a New York City bike messenger:
"You don't stop for red lights?"
"I don't stop for red lights," Leopold said.
"You don't stop for pedestrians," Kuralt replied.
"I go against traffic. People go, "gasp gasp," he said. "All day long I
As Kuralt said in his original report: "At 24, David Leopold is an
outlaw legend - the fastest and the flashiest of Manhattan Island's
last romantic adventures - the bicycle messenger. He passes trucks, he
passes busses, he passes mounted policemen as if they were standing
still - and all taxi cabs."
Leopold told Kuralt: "I can ride between objects that leave me an
inch-and-a-half on each side. So technical …you know, it's like a
surgeon's hand," he said.
Given his cockiness and daredevil-may-care attitude, Hartman said he
thought for sure Leopold would be roadkill by now.
"It is a dangerous job," he said. "Only the strong survive."
And yet he's still here - with at least one grey hair for every
The other big difference is, if you strap on camera on him today,
you'll see something in his riding that definitely wasn't there in the
original Kuralt footage: An actual modicum of good judgment.
Nowadays, Leopold even stops for baby carriages.
"I am cautious because I want my children to have a father and my wife
to have a husband."
Those dependents, those beautiful dependents, have not only made
Leopold a safer biker, they've made him a mostly behind-a-desk biker.
The only riding he does now is to work.
Today he owns his own messenger service called Cavalry Couriers. It's
one of the few remaining messenger services in the city. Apparently
ever since the fax came out business has been going downhill. Half of
him wonders if the profession will be obsolete by the time his son can
"Ian does have it in his blood, I can see it," Leopold said.
Hartman asked: "If he came to you and said, 'I want to be just like you
dad,'" what would you think?
"I would think I've done something wrong as a dad," he laughed.
But Leopold says if he insists, he hopes he does it for the right
reason - a reason Charles Kuralt summed up so eloquently.
"Leo's in it for the joy of passing everything that moves on the island
of Manhattan - and of doing this one thing better than anybody else on
the planet Earth," Kuralt said.
"I'm the king of the street," Leopold told Kuralt.
Now, he tells Hartman: "I'm probably no longer king of the streets, but
I gave it my best shot."
original story that aired in 1985: