05/04/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT
05/04/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT
It's not easy courting a Spice Girl. First of all, as the song says, if you wanna be her lover, you gotta get with her friends. Second, there are all those jealous fans, the kind who send you bullets with your name on them. Then, of course, there's trying not to get stepped on by those hazardous stiletto heels.
But for English soccer sensation David Beckham
, 23, none of that was enough to stop him from pledging his heart to Victoria Adams, 24, known to the Clearasil set as Posh Spice. The U.K.'s most telegenic twosome (set to wed next summer), they're conducting their old-fashioned romance in a very modern way: long distance. While the six-foot Beckham is busy scoring goals for the Manchester United soccer club (he was voted Young Player of the Year in 1997), Adams is often away on tour with her multiplatinum band. "David will fly to where she is, and she will fly to him," says Beckham friend Joan Kinkaid. "They're always together for a day or two." And when not, says ex-teammate Simon Davies, "he could be in deepest Russia, and he'll ring her just to say 'How are you?' " Certainly they can afford the longdistance bills. Each Spice is reportedly worth $8 million; Beckham earns $25,000 a week and will pocket $13 million in endorsements for Adidas and others. His biggest endorsement, though, comes from Adams's mother. "David is wonderful, and he treats her very well," says Jackie Adams, who owns an electrical-supply company with Victoria's father, Tony. "He's such a decent guy."
How the soccer star got his Girl is the stuff pop songs are made of. Raised in East London by Sandra, a hairdresser, and Ted, an appliance repairman, Beckham knew early on that soccer "was his life," says his former coach Martin Heather. "Nothing was going to get in his way." Perseverance paid off when he landed a United contract in '93—and after he saw Adams in the Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There" video last year. Pointing to the screen, he announced he'd found the girl of his dreams.
Of course he had to meet her first. The oldest of three children raised in affluent Goff's Oak (she still lives with her parents), Victoria was picked from 400 applicants to join the Spice Girls in "95. While being interviewed by a soccer magazine last year, she was shown Beckham's picture. "I had no idea who he was," she told the Sun, "but I remember thinking one word: gorgeous." When she hit the players' lounge after a United game in March of 1997, "it was love at first sight," says her father, Tony.
Thus began a frequent-flyer romance, which when grounded is—despite their penchant for Gucci garb and Rolex watches—relatively normal. "We like to stay in and watch TV," Beckham told the Times magazine. But dating a sex symbol has its perils: Besides hate mail and the bullets, Beckham has complained of a stalker outside his $325,000 Worsley home. "He seems like Mr. Cool," a pal told the Sunday Mirror, "but all this has scared him rigid."
Commitment, on the other hand, hasn't. On Jan. 24, Beckham and Adams stayed in a $500-a-night room at Cheshire's Rookery Hall Hotel. There, Beckham pulled out a three-plus-carat diamond ring from Manchester's Boodle & Dunthorne, reportedly worth $65,000, and proposed. Displaying ample Girl Power, she then gave him a three-tiered band of 96 diamonds—said to be valued at 580,000—from Van Cleef & Arpels. "Victoria started bouncing around, yelling, 'You got to see my ring!' " says the hotel's headwaiter, Ian Hendrie, who brought the couple a bottle of 1985 Krug Rose. "You could tell they were ecstatic."
And so they remain, dreaming of their wedding and a house full of soccer-playing kids (for now, their two rottweilers will do). "I want to have children," Adams explained on a talk show, "but I still want to have a career." And Spice Girls usually get their way. "Victoria wears the trousers," says her father, "so what she wants to do, she'll do."
Joanna Blonska in London