Those who harbor nostalgia for the soot-smudged, graffiti-covered New York, the one that predates Rudy Giuliani's Marie Kondo writ large act, will delight in this 1984 TV advertisement for Honda scooters featuring Lou Reed. To say Reed stars in the commercial would be a misnomer; his inscrutable visage, obscured by aviator sunglasses with lenses as opaque as a welder's mask, only flashes briefly onto the screen once or twice.
As The Browser astutely notes, the true luminary of this urban spectacle is not Reed, but rather the unvarnished panorama of Manhattan. It's a cityscape daubed in grime, inhabited by monstrous honking rust-coated iron behemoths coughed up from Detroit's industrial maw, and populated by quintessential New Yorkers, hustling, negotiating, posturing. Their grins evoke Ratso Rizzo scenting a greenhorn ready to be fleeced of his last twenty dollars.
In the ad's denouement, Reed sits on a cherry-red scooter, whips off his shades with a nonchalance only he could muster, and delivers, with deadpan aplomb, "Hey, don't settle for walkin'." It's a line that feels oddly jarring, a discordant note in the symphony of the city, especially since the soundtrack for the commercial is Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." Is the joke on Honda or the viewer?