Apparently it all goes back to a wedding he attended when he was 6. Asked to be a page boy, he was given a choice between two outfits: A mini-tuxedo or a super-fey ivory ensemble consisting of shorts, long socks, ballet shoes, and a big frilly shirt. “Guess which one I wore,” he says. Even today, Beckham’s flair for cross-breeding clothes is evident: A vintage Yngwie Malmsteen T-shirt, expertly shredded jeans, and white sneakers—all wincing in the glow of a diamond-smeared, beer-coaster-size watch cobbled together by Jacob the Jeweler. “It’s too big,” Beckham says. “But I like it.”

From this vantage point, the ocean stretches out for miles like a giant blue welcome mat. Even for a guy with homes in England, Spain, and Dubai, the West Coast panorama is humbling. “I’ve always wanted a house like this,” he says. “Just something on the ocean with a constant view. The drive over here was incredible. I love L.A. I could get used to this.”

It’s that kind of talk that’s fueled reports that Beckham might end up playing for an American team. Considering his international reputation, the thought of his spending the twilight of his soccer years in a subpar league seems far-fetched. But, hey, it plays well to the local press.

Besides, today he’s talking about another American milestone: 37 cars lying in wait outside his hotel this morning. A record, he says. Eight of them followed him here. Of course, that has more to do with the latest bit of scandal—pictures that caught him kissing someone who was decidedly not Posh—than with any spike in his Stateside fame. “It’s part of our lives, you know, and we accept that,” Beckham says of the attention. “We either carry on living our lives as normal as possible or, you know, go into hiding.” Beckham has learned to adapt. If he wants a quiet night out, he knows he’ll need to sneak off the grounds of his sprawling Hertfordshire estate—a.k.a. Beckingham Palace—on the floorboard of a friend’s car. If he needs to make a low-key exit from a restaurant, that means snaking through the kitchen and out the back door. That’s the lighter side. When a nut is found roaming your property with a can of tear gas and a crowbar, or when someone threatens to kidnap your wife and children, serious measures are in order. A $250,000 alarm system is installed. Each Beckham boy—Brooklyn, 6; Romeo, 2; and Cruz, 5 months—gets his own bodyguard; Brooklyn’s even waits outside school during class.

“The kids just think they’re friends of us,” Beckham says of the family’s paid mesomorphic companions. “When there was a kidnap threat against the boys, there was this police car right outside our front door and our kids would want to know why. We would say, ‘The police have come down to show you the car, and they’re gonna leave it here for you to play in.’ It seemed to work.”