"Beckham, is it?" the bar hostess asks in a feeble attempt at acting nonchalant.
She strides into the garden, taking a table in the middle of all the action. Settling in for her first sit-down interview since her soccer stud husband signed a $250-million deal in January to play with the L.A. Galaxy, she orders a glass of Champagne and asks if it would be all right if she keeps her sunglasses on.
This week, the Beckhams and their three boys move into the $22-million, 13,000-square-foot Italianate house they bought in Beverly Hills. ("I didn't want anything too big and ostentatious," she says, by all indications being serious.) But for months, every detail of their arrival has been engineered to build buzz. The Beckhams hit the Oscar party circuit in February, then announced plans for a reality show in March, which Victoria began filming in May, popping up at the Grove, the Saddle Ranch Chop House and the Pleasure Chest sex shop — always with a film crew in tow and always in a head-turning get-up.
Unlike most celebs, she doesn't dress down in slouchy T-shirts, flip-flops and jeans. Beckham dresses, really dresses, for every occasion. Her wardrobe notes might read something like this:
June 11: Opening pitch at the Dodgers game — short-shorts and debut of Dries Van Noten platform sneakers.
Jan. 16: Dinner date with Katie at the Ivy — frilly organza Giambattista Valli dress, very ladylike.
June 3: MTV Movie Awards — vintage zebra-print Azzedine Alaia mini with pink satin bra peeking out. So 1980s, so MTV.
Her style isn't classic and it isn't driven by trends. It's daring, at times silly, and British at heart — think Princess Diana, who wore Moschino to meet the Italian president, Escada to Germany and Chanel to France, or the queen, with all those wonderful hats at Ascot.
Not that royal protocol would sanction a mini-dress for a coming-to-L.A. interview, especially a mini so short that you can't help but get the occasional glimpse of her pink panties. But Beckham is having a 1980s moment, inspired by her love of Léger, Alaia and British up-and-comer Christopher Kane, whose fluorescent bandage dresses were a hit at London Fashion Week in September.
"They dress down quite a lot here, don't they?" she asks. "It seems to be in keeping to go to Starbucks in track suit bottoms and Ugg boots."
Well, you can forget about that.
"I have one pair for non-photographic opportunities only. Underground car parks are fine, but aside from that, no."
"I don't want to change the way I dress," she says between nibbles of strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar. "This is me, and if people like it, great."
But in many ways, she's already gone L.A. She's now highlighting her brown hair blond, launching her own denim line, promoting her own reality show, decorating a house in the hills, and gearing up for a reunion tour with her old band, the Spice Girls. Did she miss even one stereotype?
Well, she doesn't have a stylist — yet.
"I get quite bored with the way people look the same all the time, with the same makeup and the same outfit and the same kind of hair. I like to change things around quite a bit," she says, explaining that she works with stylists for magazine shoots only. But for personal appearances, "I prefer to do it myself."
Surprisingly, she comes off as pretty low-key. When we piled into her SUV with her driver, bodyguard and publicist to take the short ride from her manager's office to the Chateau, she dived into the way-back seat headfirst. A self-described "girl's girl," she has stick straight posture, knows exactly how to pose for a photo, and is quick to say she has to work at looking sexy.