THE BACK PAGES

If need be, Posh will bend Beckham

Former Spice Girl is firmly in charge of Brand Beckham as the team heads to Tinseltown

ROSALIND MILES June 18 2007
THE BACK PAGES

If need be, Posh will bend Beckham

Former Spice Girl is firmly in charge of Brand Beckham as the team heads to Tinseltown

ROSALIND MILES June 18 2007

If need be, Posh will bend Beckham

fame

Former Spice Girl is firmly in charge of Brand Beckham as the team heads to Tinseltown

ROSALIND MILES

“California, here I come”—but will he now? Poised on the brink of a career-defining move to Los Angeles, the world’s most famous footballer David Beckham may be thinking again. Breaking into the Hollywood dream factory is the wistful fantasy of so many sun-starved Brits that it’s hard to imagine England’s darling not jumping in with both feet. But it’s all changed since the toothsome midfielder has been recalled to the English national squad.

Not for Victoria, it hasn’t. The former Spice girl “Posh,” Beckham’s wife has been storming the town for months, mounting a carefully planned assault with an army of advisers and publicists and fistfuls of dollar bills. As Europe’s tabloid royalty, the only place left for the Beckhams to crack is the U.S., specifically Hollywood. Everything Posh does there, from buying a house to getting a traffic violation ticket, is choreographed for public consumption. L.A. cops are used to the likes of Eddie Murphy and Hugh Grant getting down and dirty on Sunset Boulevard. To discover a skinny little Brit driving without a California licence was hardly the felony du jour, but it got world coverage all the same.

What’s driving her? California has always had a strong pull for northern Europeans. Consumptive D.H. Lawrence taught briefly at the University of California and never went home. But California is also where talent from England goes to die. From the start of the talkies, many of Britain’s brightest crossed the Atlantic without success. Evelyn Waugh endured six hellish weeks in Hollywood, and fled. Aldous Huxley survived, going to write a screenplay and staying for life. But Brits who crack Hollywood are rare, with Catherine Zeta-Jones about the only fixture now. And Beckham only

headed west when his career appeared to be on the slide. Long gone from Manchester United, he was dropped last autumn first by the new England manager, Steve McClaren, and then by his club Real Madrid. Agreeing to join Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy later in the year signalled the end of Beckham’s international career.

Never say never, honchos. In deep trouble, Real Madrid recalled Beckham within weeks, and he helped to propel them to the top of the Spanish premiership. Now he has been recalled to the England squad by the wretched McClaren. Good for Becksy-Wecksy. Not so good for the L.A. Galaxy, left stuttering, “This is not the greatest news from a business perspective.” What about the truckloads of cash Beckham was going to bring in? The boy may look as if he has most of his brains in his feet, but the endorsements are fabulous. Pepsi alone pays him US$15 million a year. Everything he touches turns to gold.

So why does he need Hollywood? Or Posh? Ah, but he does. Posh herself has made millions out of a talent even more slender than her exquisitely exiguous body. Herself a miracle of marketing, she unstintingly applied all her expertise to Becks. Posh it was who turned him from a first-division footballer into Brand Beckham, the global phenomenon. And Becks

submits willingly to her sorcery. At her behest

he restyles his hair, appears in His ’n’ Hers outfits, sports a sarong. At their wedding, they sat together on purple thrones in the mansion dubbed “Beckingham Palace” by the press. He even wears her underwear, she says.

Of course they get laughs. But even the mockery keeps the Brand in the public eye. No one knows better than Posh that they must keep Brand Beckham running ever faster as the most lusted-after legs in football slow down. Most athletes are finished in their late twenties. At 32, hampered by injury and past his glory days, Beckham has still pulled off reputedly the biggest financial deal in U.S. sporting history.

Only athletes die twice. Beckham knows it can’t go on, and L.A. now seems a lot less attractive than it did. Some of Posh’s plans do too: Becks is a man of few words, but his vocabulary proved fully adequate to convey his opinion of her wheeze that they convert to Scientology to please her new best friends, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Still, go he must. Neither Posh nor all those millions of dollars will be denied.

And the smart money says she’ll pull it off. Single-handedly driving herself and her team, Posh has reinvented the feminist icon to demonstrate that being a woman in today’s world is about money and the power it brings to live a life of glittering excess. She was born to conquer Tinseltown. What’s the betting that between the two of them, the Becking-

hams will win out? M