More Becks please, we’re British
Heard the one about the bloke who gets a new job offer? He weighs up the pros and cons of whether to accept it: after all, it will mean moving to a bigger town, him and his wife getting to know new neighbours, the kids settling into a different school and finding a new nanny, and him forming a fresh circle of mates to shoot the breeze with after work. He ponders for a while, then thinks why not a change is as good as a rest, and after all you only live once
A pretty normal tale of middle-class family life decisions only, if the bloke in question is footballer – sorry, soccer player – David Beckham - any career move is a media event. And so, finally, the Becks roadshow rolled into town at Los Angeles International Airport late Thursday evening and he officially became a new signing on the L.A. Galaxy roster on Friday 13…
Used to covering big film premieres, festivals like Cannes and perennial UK awards like the BAFTAs and The Brits, even I was surprised by the scale of the media interest and the slickness of the PR apparatus, there to facilitate coverage.
Indeed, at LAX airport, there was no bunfight - no unsightly fighting between camera crews, journalists and photographers running backwards and tripping over bewildered passengers, in the pursuit of the picture. The LA Airport Authority had co-ordinated a press pen along a hundred yard long walk-through to the side of the Terminal. A press officer appeared with a tannoy giving regular (and accurate) updates on arrival time, which appeased myself, colleague Danny Moloshok and twitchy media who had arrived many hours earlier to bag prime spots. The sharp elbows in the press but were familiar but Mr and Mrs Beckham did their catwalk thing and passed down the whole walkway together with model-esque poses, giving everyone the required time to get the picture. No need to stake out different exits, no need chase the lmo trying to make car shots. The only thing missing was a red carpet.
To the LA Galaxy ground, Friday morning to find stage, photo positions, advertising banners with DBs face and VIP seats all arranged for maximum impact. Indeed, the PRs were so obliging that the pragmatically brought forward the whole signing show by an hour to make UK deadlines. Posh arrived first (so as not to divert attention from the spectacle of the soccer player with his new number 23 shirt), she is wearing an all pink getup and tirelessly playing to the cameras, even I cant miss her as I struggle with the menu settings on my new Canon cameras.
Stage presentation, ticker tape, crowds, shirt signings are all shot smoothly by Reuters colleagues Lucy Nicholson and Mike Blake, she filing raw pictures via Reuters Paneikon software and he hard wired into his laptop, on high speed internet Sprint data cards to deliver images to the editor in New York so that many strong pictures are on the wires before David has left the stage.
……..and then it is over.
After all the hype, the choreography by the Beckham PR machine is impeccable and undeniably impressive. The range of interests from global news agencies, print, radio, televison and online media outlets which makes us all – including Reuters Pictures – complicit in also feeding and promoting the Beckham industry, were matched and appetites, for the time being, sated.
But as with fast food (of which there is no shortage in L.A.) the pangs of hunger are only temporarily dulled. Aside from inevitable Pap coverage if the Beckhams pop out for a KFC Family Bucket between arranging the furniture and hanging the curtains, the next milestone will be the man kicking a ball.
His first predicted competitive (friendly) appearance, ankle willing, is scheduled for next Saturday against visiting UK allstar side Chelseahow coincidental is that? Not very, methinks.
Meanwhile I am slightly baffled : Mr and Mrs Beckham were pictured leaving Heathrow on Thursday morning with three children in tow. Twelve hours later at Los Angeles airport just Mum and Dad appeared in front of the cameras. I do hope Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz arent left still trying to fill in their Department of Justice and Immigration forms. It took me long enough to get right and I’ve got qualifications….
Toby Melville is a Reuters photographer based in London