Leaving Real life for La-La-Land: A new world for Posh and Becks

As Beckham's star fades in Madrid, he is moving his wife and children to a new Galaxy in Los Angeles. Jonathan Brown and Andrew Gumbel look at what faces the first family of football as they transfer a unique brand of celebrity
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The Independent US

Teammates

David Beckham's new team take their name from Los Angeles' fabled galaxy of stars - celluloid, not football stars, that is. Fans in England or Spain would be hard-pressed to name any of the 11 players who don the team's gold and green shirts and troop out on to their shared ground, the Home Depot Centre, at California State University.

Last season, the team notched up their worst season in history, with LA Galaxy finishing a disappointing fifth in the Western Conference. The team's current star player, before the arrival of Beckham of course, is captain Landon Donovan, right, top scorer for the past two years and once hailed as the hottest home-grown talent in US Major League Soccer. His star has waned somewhat after failing to score in 17 outings with the national side, including poor performances at last summer's World Cup. He is married to actress Bianca Kajlich, who has appeared in films including the critically-panned Halloween: Resurrection.

Donovan succeeded Pasadena's Peter Vagenas as the club's captain. The midfielder and former Olympian is much admired by fans for his telling passes - and could be threatened by Beckham's arrival.

The former England captain might also recognise Cornell Glen, who played for Trinidad and Tobago against England in the 2006 World Cup, a game the Caribbean team only narrowly lost. Glen continues to be hampered by an injury that he picked up in the final match of the German campaign.

Brazilian-born midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi might find he has more in common with the illustrious new signing than his teammates, having played three seasons with Swindon Town.

Home and away

Wherever the Beckhams live, it's going to be a long way from Carson, the industrial suburb near the port of Long Beach where both the LA Galaxy and their local rivals, Chivas USA, have their home stadium. The area is an unlovely amalgam of wide highways, low-rise industrial parks and car dealerships, but at least has the merit of being relatively easy to drive in and out of.

That, in turn, opens up all sorts of possibilities, starting with the nearby Palos Verdes peninsula, a secluded area of dramatic clifftop homes overlooking the Pacific. That, though, is likely to be a bit too quiet and too far removed from the A-list hubbub. A better bet would be one of the exclusive hillside neighbourhoods north of Sunset Boulevard where most of Hollywood's top stars make their homes - Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood or the Pacific Palisades.

The local paparazzi recently spotted Victoria Beckham house-hunting in Beverly Hills and a little further east in the Hollywood Hills. It makes perfect sense. This is an area of winding lanes and vast mansions, where the best views of the city are blocked off from the general public behind tall gates and a rigorously kept code of absolute privacy. Name a film star or high-profile director and chances are they live somewhere in the area.

One of the homes Victoria was seen visiting was just a short distance from the pad Tom Cruise keeps with his new bride, Katie Holmes and baby daughter Suri. The Beckhams were invited to the big Cruise-Holmes wedding bash in Rome in November - although David couldn't make it to the ceremony itself because he was ordered back to Real Madrid, where he sat, not for the first time, on the bench.

Celebrity homes north of Sunset typically have six or more bedrooms, perhaps a guest-house for visitors or the live-in help, plenty of living space and special features like state-of-the-art movie screening rooms. Swimming pools are more or less standard, as are terraces with panoramic views of the City of Angels laid out below.

One further possibility is a beach house in Malibu, which would make for a longer commute to Carson but has the advantage of being able to watch dolphins frolic in the Pacific at dawn. If the Beckhams get comfortable, they could always do both - have a main residence in Beverly Hills and a second home at the beach for the weekend.

Coaching the kids

Brooklyn will be heading into third grade next September. Romeo, with his September birthday, will have the choice between starting kindergarten or waiting another year. Cruz, meanwhile, is probably too young even for pre-school. Celebrities tend to send their children to a huge array of schools, determined either by geography, religious affiliation, academics or any number of other factors. Some of them even choose to home-school.

Among the more exclusive establishments the Beckhams might consider are the Brentwood School (where the Schwarzenegger kids go), John Thomas Dye (very academic, just off Sunset Boulevard), Crossroads in Santa Monica (lots of good sports facilities) or one of a clutch of private schools in Mulholland Drive.

Celebrity pre-school choices are similarly eclectic - not least because Jews are known to send their kids to nurseries run by Protestant churches, and vice versa. One pre-school known for its celebrity-heavy intake is the First Presbyterian in Santa Monica - a number of the little Spielbergs wound up there.

Shopping

The cliched image of celebrity shopping is Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but in fact it caters almost exclusively to the tourists. A more likely first stop is the LA branch of Barney's New York, on Wilshire Boulevard, whose five floors are stacked with designer names. Anyone hoping to do a little Victoria-spotting, though, would probably be better off in West Hollywood, especially in the luxury clothing triangle enclosed by Melrose Avenue, Melrose Place and La Cienega Boulevard. Victoria was photographed recently in Marc Jacobs' fabulous emporium on Melrose Place, with its 1950s-style Macassar ebony columns and a vintage glass chandelier by the Italian company Venini. Oh, and the shoes aren't half-bad either. Victoria's pal Katie Holmes also likes the Marc Jacobs emporium.

A stone's throw away is Carolina Herrera, where opulent coats and dresses are displayed among zebra-wood furnishings and seats draped in Herrera's signature brown and beige satin stripes. Delia showcases lesser-known European designers; Duncan Quinn puts a rock 'n' roll spin on classic Savile Row styles; Retro Specs offers vintage sunglasses; Diane von Furstenberg offers jewels. Alice Temperley also has a store here, frequented by the likes of Uma Thurman and Sienna Miller. Up the road at Sunset Plaza there is more shopping heaven, featuring such boutiques as Tracey Ross, Nicole Miller and Anna Sui. On the Sunset Strip itself is Madison (good for Prada, Chloe, Valentino and Jimmy Choo), O Boutique, Undercover and Dolce & Gabbana.

Over and above the clothing stores, the Beckhams are going to have to make such crucial decisions as where they like to drink their coffee. The Urth Caffe on Melrose is perennially trendy, if crowded. Peet's, with outlets on Sunset and in Beverly Hills, is reputed to have the best beans.

Then there are LA's restaurants and nightclubs to consider: don't be surprised if the Beckhams show up sooner rather than later at Hatfield's, the hot new French-style restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, or at Spago, the perennial celebrities' favourite in Beverly Hills.

For the children, there are any number of high-end stores to choose from, such as Auntie Barbara's Kids in Beverly Hills or Kitson's Kids in West Hollywood.

For sports gear the best place is undoubtedly Sports Chalet, with outlets all over the city.

Posh's new circle

The Beckhams could have no better entrée into Hollywood society. Victoria's burgeoning friendship with Katie Holmes, the movie star wife of Tom Cruise, has provided the former Spice Girl and her spouse with a gold-plated calling card at the mansions of Tinseltown's elite. There have been reports that Holmes has been doing all she can to turn her new friend into a Hollywood star. She is reported to have arranged a meeting with Steven Spielberg, and there has even been talk of a biopic about the British couple, with Holmes playing the ex-pop singer. Cruise, said to get on well with Beckham, apparently declined the chance to play his new chum because of "marked physical differences".

News that Mrs Beckham had been spotted house-hunting in the exclusive districts of Beverly Hills and Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles nearly gave the game away long before yesterday's announcement. But the former England captain is said to have been cultivating his own A-list friendships too. He is reported to have promised to give Brad Pitt's son "soccer" lessons at his new David Beckham Academy in Los Angeles. There will also be no shortage of British expats who will be delighted to welcome the new couple into their circle and discuss the offside trap over cocktails by the pool.

Brand development

While his critics may have thought, indeed hoped, that David's exit from the England team that ill-fated day in Germany last summer would mark the beginning of a bear market for brand Beckham, the man himself was having other thoughts.

Beckham and his advisers never lost faith in their product and have spent recent years ditching sponsorship deals that failed to project him as a global sporting and glamour icon.

Even before the Los Angeles deal, the 31-year-old and his former pop star wife had amassed a joint personal fortune of £87m and they have plenty of ways of adding to that total.

Sportswear manufacturer adidas has been paying him an estimated £3m a year to wear their boots while in June he signed a £7.5m deal with Motorola. He also continues to benefit to the tune of £4m a year through long-standing arrangements with Pepsi and Gillette. Beckham's own-brand male scent, Instinct, produced by Brand Beckham Ltd - a joint venture agreement with his wife's cosmetics company, makers of Intimately Her - also proved a moneyspinner.

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