Team troubles, Tom Cruise and an unlikely takeover come to light in a new book. Guy Adams reports
David Beckham's love affair with Los Angeles first started to sour when the waiter in an upmarket Hollywood restaurant refused to serve him a glass of wine with dinner because he didn't look old enough, it was claimed yesterday. The revelation is one of several harmless, but headline-stealing, items of tittle-tattle contained in a new book chronicling the former England captain's ill-fated attempt to popularise the beautiful game in America.
Beckham and his pop-star wife, Victoria, arrived in Hollywood in 2006, in a blaze of publicity, after signing a five-year deal with the local Major League club LA Galaxy which, including sponsorship, was worth an estimated $250 million (£169m).
However, they behaved like typical out-of-towners, failing to establish themselves in the premier league of local celebrity and, according to Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl's forthcoming book, The Beckham Experiment, unwisely choosing to hitch themselves to the falling star of Tom Cruise.
Despite being household names in the rest of the world, the couple first realised their failure to crack Hollywood when restaurant staff failed to recognise them, and asked to see photographic ID before they would serve a Pinot Grigio with dinner.
Since "Posh 'n' Becks" aren't in the habit of carrying identification papers with them, they suffered the humiliating experience of being forced to go thirsty.
Beckham, at 33, is more than a decade older than the legal drinking age in California. But his experience will be familiar to many visitors to the US, where drinking laws are enforced with a draconian zeal that is perhaps only rivalled by the Arab world.
On the field, Beckham never became close to his team-mates at Galaxy, claims Wahl. He scored just five goals, missed many games due to injury, and in his second season left the club tied for the worst record in Major League Soccer.
The publisher Random House announced this week that the book will provide "a detailed account of Beckham's aspirations and worries about his American adventure, his interactions with Galaxy team-mates earning as little as $12,900 a year, his icy relationships with Galaxy star Landon Donovan and former team president Alexi Lalas."
It will be released in mid-July, to coincide with Beckham's scheduled return to Los Angeles, where he'll play out the remainder of his contract with Galaxy. Last month, the footballer paid several million dollars from his own pocket to persuade Galaxy to let him finish the Italian season with Milan.
That deal, which Beckham hopes will help his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup, left the US club's credibility in tatters and angered many fans who had already bought Galaxy season tickets, but will now only see their star player for a handful of games.
Quite how it was negotiated has yet to be fully explained, but Random House says Wahl's book will allege that Beckham's management company, 19 Entertainment, somehow "engineered a shadow takeover of Galaxy".