- Entertainment and Media
David and Victoria Beckham – Are They For Real?
Personally, I blame the late Princess Diana. While she was alive, barely a day passed when her photos didn’t appear in the tabloid newspapers, and numerous glossy weeklies were created on the back of her very existence. She provided them with endless column inches, photo spreads and, as her marriage broke down, feverish speculation. She single-handedly supported British media in the same way that she could get the name of any charity she served on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. And then, one tragic day in August 1997, it was all over. The magazines got a few weeks’ coverage out of her death and funeral, but there was only so much even they could milk out of a beautiful, popular, but tragically dead princess. What was the media to do?
Enter Posh and Becks
Enter Posh and Becks, Britain’s newly-formed glamour couple. She, a Spice Girl at the peak of their popularity, he, a hot young player for Manchester United, Britain’s most successful football club. Their relationship started in the year of Diana’s death, they announced their engagement the following one and in 1999 rejoiced in both the birth of baby Brooklyn and a magnificently over-the-top wedding in an Irish castle, the rights of which were sold to OK! magazine for a small fortune.
The nation suddenly had its new royal couple (their home in Hertfordshire was dutifully dubbed Beckingham Palace by the press) – and better still, one that was just as glamorous and media-savvy as the late princess. While the Royal Family could go back to being what they always were – tea and biscuit types – the press were in thrall to a dazzling new power couple.
Today, barely a day goes by without some mention of David and Victoria Beckham in the British tabloids. Becks’ mightily successful football career, Victoria’s acclaimed fashion collections, their adorable kids – nothing about the Beckhams escapes the media’s eye, or indeed interest. With a combined worth of £200 million and an internationally recognised brand, the Beckhams have got the lot – in spades.
But look behind the scenes and you realise there’s one enormously influential and powerful person behind them. They might have got a head start with the loss of our beloved princess, but it’s the shrewd management of one man that has really taken them stratospheric. His name is Simon Fuller, and it is he, essentially, who is the brains behind Posh and Becks and all their extraordinary business dealings. He’s the puppet master, and they are wise enough to let him pull all the strings.
The Puppet Master
Let’s examine Simon Fuller’s influence. It was his company 19 Entertainment which signed the Spice Girls in 1995 when they ended their contract with Heart Management, whose concept the band had been. The single ‘Wannabe’ was released in 1996 and the band went on sell a whopping 37.5 million records over the next three years. 1997 was a huge year, seeing them, thanks to Mr Fuller, endorsing numerous products, from Cadbury’s Chocolate and Walker’s Crisps to Pepsi Cola and Playstation. Critics accused them of selling out, but what did they care? As a manufactured band, they only had a short lifespan – why not make as much out of it as you can?
And to top it all, that same year Fuller, a lifelong Manchester United fan, introduced David Beckham, who was playing for United at the time, to Victoria Adams during a charity football match. Whether this was a happy accident or some shrewd matchmaking on his part we’ll probably never know, but it was another stroke of sheer brilliance.
By the year 2000 the Spice Girls had broken up and Victoria tried her luck at a solo career, churning out a couple of singles and an album. It didn’t work out. According to Wikipedia, she is the only Spice Girl not to have had a UK number one solo single, even if all her releases did make the top ten. In 2003 husband David moved to Spanish club Real Madrid, and famously, Victoria did not follow. With her music career in tatters, she could focus on her two sons – Brooklyn and Romeo, who was born in 2002. In 2004, allegations of David’s affair with PA Rebecca Loos appeared, prompting the Spice Girl to join her man, and the following year little Cruz was born.
By now, Simon Fuller was representing David Beckham, and in 2007 negotiated a deal rumoured to be worth $250 million for his move to MLS side LA Galaxy. In fact, the football (soccer) part was ‘only’ worth $32.5 million over five years, the rest was to be made up in sponsorship and merchandising deals, but the announcement alone (masterminded by Fuller’s company) was enough to ensure frenzied global excitement.
Fuller is shameless about the business side, negotiating multi-million dollar deals that effectively turn his stars into heavyweight product promoters. With the Beckhams in particular, he has struck the mother lode. His other signings, who include singers Annie Lennox and Cathy Dennis, former Spice Girl Emma Bunton and tennis player Andy Murray, are far less visible. So we can conclude that it’s been the Beckhams’ choice to make as much money out of their stardom as is humanly possible.
Victoria left the world of music and entered the world of fashion, launching, among other things, ranges of denim, sunglasses and handbags, as well as the inevitable his and hers fragrances. In 2008 she debuted her own fashion collection to rave reviews. Now here’s a magnificent synergy: I’ve read many cynics claiming that, with no formal fashion design training, Victoria’s own ‘designs’ are actually the work of French fashion designer Roland Mouret, known for his clean lines and casual-chic elegance, and whose ‘Moon Dress’ Victoria made famous. Now, guess who has been managing Roland Mouret since 2006? Yup, that’s right, one Simon Fuller. Another stroke of effortless genius on his part, or just a coincidence?
Becks – the new Forrest Gump?
For some reason I watched a football match in which Beckham was playing not that long ago. It occurred to me that there were twenty-one football players on that pitch, and one global mega-star who has, in no particular order:
- been awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by the Queen
- accompanied a future king and the British Prime Minister on a bid to host the World Cup
- attended a Royal Wedding
- been teased for his underpants ads by a US president
- inspired a successful film (Bend it Like Beckham)
- acted as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2005
- co-authored no fewer than three autobiographies
- played a James Bond-style part in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony
I half-expected him to show up during Margaret Thatcher’s funeral – more than anything, after all, he and Victoria are shining examples of Thatcher’s materialistic Britain. Why has Becks become the nation’s favourite mascot? With not much up top, he’s very good at just being nice. He’ll happily trot out banalities when required, and is never controversial. I remember hearing him on the radio after the failed bid to host the World Cup referring to Russia and Qatar as ‘two really great countries’. Really, David? Really? I think a few human rights organisations may beg to differ.
On announcing his retirement from football, he looked genuinely gutted. I couldn’t help but think that, given the choice, he’d have carried on for another year, but that it was Simon Fuller who’d pushed him into this decision. David played for half a season at Paris St Germain, but at the majority of matches came on as a substitute in the last few minutes. Simon Fuller was no doubt aware that his lack of match time was diminishing ‘the brand’. So what does he have in store for the future? (And did any children’s charity ever get his salary, as promised?)
Successful or Cynical?
It’s easy to become cynical after a while. The stage-managed photo opportunities, for one thing. The Beckhams are never ‘papped’. Think about it: how often have you seen Victoria out and about with bad hair, chipped nail polish and wearing a baggy jumper covered in baby sick? That’s right, never. She once called the airport her runway, and the papers are constantly full of images of her walking through LAX, JFK and Heathrow Airports carrying little baby Harper, their much longed-for daughter, on one hip, inevitably wearing a dress of her own collection. (Good to see little Harper pulling her weight for Brand Beckham.) I’ve long suspected that the papers are tipped off at every opportunity – anything to keep ‘the brand’ visible.
So are the Beckhams dutiful, loyal and adoring parents to their four children, or are they ruthless self-promoters who see every family outing as a photo opportunity? Arguably, there are much bigger stars in the UK who don’t find themselves in the papers anything like as much. And one thing the British media (astonishingly) does, it’s they respect celebrities’ desire to keep their children out of the limelight. Stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Kate Moss have all requested their children’s anonymity, and the papers respect this. If they’re ever papped, the children’s faces are pixilated out. Not so the Beckhams.
The Last Time She Smiled?
For the woman who has it all – a loving husband, four beautiful, healthy children, a thriving business and squillions in the bank, Victoria Beckham always looks thoroughly miserable. Maybe she just hates her smile, and has realised that the pout is more flattering? Or is there more to it? Victoria and David have gone so far down the line as a family brand, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – without each other, their star quality would surely fade. Are they happy, or has their marriage become little more than a business arrangement?
There was Becks’ alleged affair with Rebecca Loos in Madrid. He’s a good-looking, physical boy and his wife wasn’t joining him in Spain – ‘man needs sex’ is not exactly an earth-shattering headline. Then there was the infamous ‘footsie’ photograph. Both parties have denied any wrong-doing, but here’s the pic – decide for yourselves. And here’s a bit of juicy speculation: in the aftermath of the Prince Harry in Vegas scandal, a blind gossip site referred to one his friends having a foolproof method they suggested he followed. The ‘friend’ chooses a sexual conquest and sends her into a hotel room where she has to strip in front of bodyguards. Only once she’s naked and camera-free can she join the ‘friend’ in the adjoining bedroom. The blind site asked who this ‘friend’ could possibly be, and overwhelmingly, participants guessed it was David Beckham.
Hard Not To Like
That all said, it’s hard not to like the Beckhams. David was a reasonably talented football player who worked incredibly hard and who’s kept his fitness and physique, even at the comparatively old age of 38. He does a huge amount for charity and is a fantastic role model for children. Victoria interviews well – she’s got charm, humour and comes across as really rather sweet. By all accounts their children are well brought up and polite.
So are they together as a business arrangement, or are they genuinely happy? You’d hope, for their children’s sake, it’s the latter, but who knows?
What is clear is that their children are destined – obliged, almost – to follow in their footsteps. Already Brooklyn, now fourteen, has joined the football academy at Queen’s Park Rangers and ten year old Romeo has started modelling for Burberry. What’s in store for little Cruz and Harper? I dare say Simon Fuller is planning lengthy and lucrative careers for all of them.
Viva Jones' series, The Sexual Misadventures of Primmie Darling, which pokes gentle fun at politicians, public figures and celebrities, is available at the Amazon Kindle Store.
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