Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, May 21

Gapers Block

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When I was in Australia several years ago, I went on an eight-day camping/hiking tour through the Outback. I was the only American on the trip; it was mostly Brits and Canadians, with a few Germans and Dutch people in the mix. After fielding several amusing but pointed questions — including "Why do Americans give money to televangelists?" and "Did they really impeach the president just for getting a blowjob?" — talk eventually turned to celebrities. One of the Brits asked me, "You mean you've never hear about Posh and Becks?" She seemed flabbergasted to learn that most people in the States had no idea who the couple even was. "You're lucky," she remarked. That was 1999. In 2007, it appears that our luck has run out. David and Victoria Beckham have landed, and they want everyone to know it.

In the United States, David Beckham is probably most well-known for lending his name to the movie Bend It Like Beckham, a comedy about an Indian girl who wants to play soccer but her strict family forbids it. His wife, Victoria, is Posh Spice, a member of the "Girl Power!" British pop group of the mid-'90s who just announced a reunion tour set to kick off in Los Angeles this December. In an era of celebrities giving unusual names to their offspring, the pair caused a blip on the American radar for first-born son Brooklyn, but until now only fútbol fans and fashion pages kept track of their footsteps and faux pax. However, they are an international phenomenon past the level of Paris and Lindsay and have been for years. David is the world's highest-paid footballer, and Victoria put out several CDs as well as a book or two. Across the pond, they're mostly famous for being famous.

Major League Soccer team the Los Angeles Galaxy offered Beckham not only a chance to play in the States but also a stake in the team itself; with this deal as well as endorsements, he has the potential to earn more than $250 million during his five-year tenure here. The Galaxy hopes Beckham's skill on the field and his flashy lifestyle off of it will bring attention to a sport that has yet to grow real roots in this country. But will America follow a handsome metrosexual to a sport that many complain is "too slow"? (A friend once argued, "Who wants to watch 22 guys run around for 90 minutes kicking a ball? No wonder their fans riot; they're bored!" My reply: "Ah, so 22 men mostly standing around for three or more hours unless one of them hits a ball with a bat is endlessly thrilling?") Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman pushed the envelope for years by wearing make-up, dyeing his hair, piercing practically every visible protrusion, and dressing in drag for public appearances or just for the hell of it. But he's only one man, and I daresay most male professional American athletes don't spend much time at manscaping.

At least he's got a job. A proposed reality series starring Victoria fell through. Monday night, NBC broadcast the culled footage in a "documentary" called Victoria Beckham: Coming to America. (Aside: NBC is becoming quite the Anglophile network, broadcasting The Concert for Diana in exchange for an exclusive interview with Princes William and Harry.) The hour-long program featured scenes of Victoria lounging about her rental house with her hairdresser and make-up artist, hiring a personal assistant, "practicing" driving and getting pulled over by a police officer, shopping, foiling the paparazzi by using a blow-up doll, confronting gossip queen Perez Hilton at a coffee shop, getting drunk with several society mavens, and acquiring her American driver's license. Too bad it was all fake: almost everyone from the cop to the assistant, Chicago-based comic Renee Gauthier, were hired actors. MAJOR! In Britain, the network airing the special admitted that several scenes were staged by running a caption before it aired. Only 5.1 million U.S. viewers caught Coming to America, which finished in second place in its time slot, after a repeat of Wife Swap.

Yes, I saw it, and it was obvious to me that everything was about as "real" as her hair color. What really bothered me was her pandering to fumbler Perez, who trashes female celebrities for not wearing underwear yet shows his balls (well, one of them, at least)) to fellow gossip site She repeated the questioned data that his web site gets 4 million hits a day (Gawker crunches the numbers here), and it's as much of an advertisement for him as it is for her.

It makes sense for her to try to control her image here: after all, the British press is notorious for its strident and vivisected detail of the "private" lives of the rich and famous. I was in the U.K. when the Hugh Grant/Divine Brown story broke, and coverage there was brutal, unlike anything I'd seen in the relatively tame U.S. print press. We have aliens and Elvis; they have a future royal leader wishing his then-mistress was a tampon. No comparison, really. If Victoria wanted her program to be a cheeky satire, more power to her. But Americans don't always get the British sense of humor, especially when it's presented as "fact." The New York Post called Coming to America "an orgy of self-indulgence so out of whack with, er, reality that you'll sit there slack-jawed at the gall of these people who think we are that stupid." And the New York Times said, "These kinds of reality shows rely on a fish-out-of-water conceit, but in Beverly Hills Mrs. Beckham is a fish-in-Evian, one rich, blond, spray-tanned wife-of among many."

In spite of all the pomp and circumstance, the sell-out crowd for Saturday night's televised Galaxy/Chelsea match didn't get their money's worth. He didn't participate in the game until the 78th minute due to an ankle injury. (The Galaxy lost, 1–0). But that didn't stop the cameras from filming and clicking away. And tonight, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, along with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, host an exclusive 600-guest "getting to know you" party at Los Angeles's Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary. Paparazzi won't be allowed inside, but you can bet they'll be lining the streets for arrivals and departures. The question remains: Will Americans care? I doubt it. Soccer may be the world's sport, but in the United States, it will never catch up to football, basketball and baseball, no matter how many pretty blond boys or past-their-prime pop stars you throw at us.

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at

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