By DANICA LO
January 12, 2007 -- THEY earn more than most corporations, spend more than some countries. And for the ability to kick a soccer ball and look like a stick insect, David and Victoria Beckham are England's most notorious, high-living celebrity couple. Now they're invading America. Rodeo Drive, warm up the cash registers.
Their rise to tabloid infamy began in late 1996, when young David Beckham, then a Manchester United soccer phenom-on-the-rise, flicked on the television and met his destiny.
"It was [the video for] 'Say You'll Be There,' the Spice Girls' sleek and accomplished follow-up to their first incandescent hit 'Wannabe,'" writes Beckham biographer Julie Burchill in her 2001 book "Burchill on Beckham."
On the screen, Victoria Adams, a k a Posh Spice, pranced around as a dominatrix in a black PVC catsuit.
"Beckham pointed at the screen and said to his best friend, 'That's the girl for me, and I am going to get her.' He later elaborated, 'It was her eyes, her face. I was sure just from seeing that video, that she was the one I wanted, and I knew that if she wanted me, we would be together forever.'"
Their worlds collided for the first time just a few months later at a Man U match against Chelsea - "And the rest was hysteria," Burchill writes. "You'd think there'd never been a Heterosexual Human Couple before."
The man with the golden foot (and surprisingly high-pitched voice) and the woman formerly known as Posh - the original footballer's wife and easily one of the tannest women in the U.K. (with suspiciously rounded, high-strung breasts) - have since become a British dynasty unto themselves. Their seven-bedroom, $13.6 million suburban home in Hertfordshire, which features a $40,000 treehouse and a $252,000 children's play fort in the back yard, is even called "Beckingham Palace."
Now, this July, following the expiration of Beckham's contract with soccer team Real Madrid, the dynastic duo and their three sons - Brooklyn, 6, Romeo, 4, and Cruz, 2 - will relocate to Los Angeles, where David begins his five-year, $250 million tenure with the L.A. Galaxy. Victoria was seen checking out a $10 million home in Beverly Hills, just down the street from new friends Tom Cruise and KatieHolmes.
Like Hollywood's own B-list-plus-B-list-equals-A-list power couples, Brand Beckham has evolved into a phenomenon. Sources claim that by 2004 they had earned upward of $190 million dollars - far more than each could have individually.
With his metrosexual good looks, David has fronted ad campaigns for Pepsi, IBM and Police sunglasses - and he's as good at spending as he is at earning. Victoria's platinum wedding band reportedly cost about $175,000.
As for Posh, not a week goes by when she doesn't live up to her name. She's regularly photographed by Britain's gossip magazines coming out of a swanky Bond Street boutique such as Dior, Chanel or Gucci. Her wardrobe is estimated to cost her more than $194,000 annually. But it's not just clothes she splurges on - in July 2004, it was reported that Victoria chartered a plane to fly her to Paris for one day to buy "soft furnishings," with the private flight alone costing $45,000. And like other uber-celebs (think of our very own Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan), Victoria is an object of both obsession and vilification in the notoriously snarky U.K. press. From her ultra-skinny frame to her rumored boob job, from her failed solo musical career to her suspected aversion to natural childbirth, there's nothing that's off-limits.
In one of her most famous public spats, Victoria called Naomi Campbell, "a massive cow" and a "bitch" after Naomi allegedly asked her, "Why do they call you Posh?" (To which she responded, "Why do they call you beautiful?")
Even fashion industry folk, who earn their living off Victoria's back, whether they like it or not, won't refrain from talking smack. "Tom Ford was horrified that she kept wearing his clothes," snickered one London stylist. "He called the Gucci p.r. office to demand she stop, but they told him: 'She's buying them! There's nothing we can do!'"
"It's also generally felt amongst fashionistas that she killed the Roberto Cavalli brand here simply by wearing the stuff," sniffed the same stylist.
At the World Cup last year, the U.K.'s Grazia magazine reported that Posh had been passing time during matches by rating and publicly mocking other footballers' wives' outfits - "Victoria has had everyone in stitches with her comments," said the magazine. "She marks outfits out of 10 and goes through the papers looking at the paparazzi photos to see how the girls look when they go out, when they're by the pool and at matches"
Posh's sympathetic fans are quick to point out, though, that she's been under great duress - especially after the first of a string of women sold their stories to the U.K. press, claiming to have slept with David. The most notorious was in the summer of 2004, when his then-personal assistant Rebecca Loos sold her story to the press, claiming to have had a text-and-sex affair with David while under his employ.
But after a tumultuous two years of publicly airing their dirty laundry, the Beckhams' marriage seems to be stronger than ever. And if their international track record is anything to go on - "Big in Japan" doesn't even come close to describing what happens when the Beckhams travel to Asia - expect to see a lot more of Posh and Becks at a newsstand near you this summer.