Once they were inseparable, but now Posh and Katie are not so matey

The Mail, UK/April 26, 2008

The handful of guests dining in Via Veneto, the decidedly decadent Italian restaurant in Santa Monica, exuded A-list Hollywood glamour.

As they sipped £700 bottles of wine under the dim glow of ornate black wrought iron chandeliers, celebrities as influential as Sir Elton John, as popular as Will Smith and as fashionable as Gwen Stefani toasted Victoria Beckham's 34th birthday.

The newest additions to Victoria's Los Angeles network - actresses Kate Beckinsale and Eva Longoria - were also there, as was supermodel Heidi Klum and her rock star husband, Seal.

It was an impressive turnout for the former Spice Girl and confirmed her as a bona fide American success story who has slotted seamlessly into the glitterati since moving there last July.

Of course, her profile has been boosted in no small measure by her friendship with Tom Cruise's wife Katie Holmes, who also made an appearance at Via Veneto last Sunday.

The two women were inseparable during the first few months of Victoria's new life after being introduced to each other by their husbands - who have been friends since Tom went to watch David Beckham play in a Real Madrid match in 2004.

While Victoria gave Katie advice on fashion and motherhood, Katie - five years Victoria's junior at 29, similarly photogenic and already a Hollywood A-lister - guaranteed the paparazzi's interest by happily posing for limitless picture opportunities when the pair were together.

Theirs has, even by the mercenary standards of Hollywood acquaintances, been a relationship of spectacular mutual benefit.

But it is also one that, The Mail on Sunday can reveal, could be on the brink of falling apart.

The Beckhams and the Cruises vehemently deny a rift and maintain they are as friendly as ever but sources close to them insist Katie and Tom's appearance at Via Veneto was little more than a PR stunt and that there is a distinct, and ever widening, chasm between the two women.

It is caused, they say, by Victoria's reluctance to embrace Scientology, Tom's religion, and her apparent influence over Katie's weight - weight, of course, being Victoria's religion.

It is perhaps inevitable that the two couples would eventually fall out.

Even disregarding the age gap, Victoria is the more forceful woman, known for her strong beliefs and said to be in the driving seat of her own marriage in much the same way Tom appears to be in control of his.

So when it comes to issues as delicate as religion and body image, Victoria is no less likely to surrender her opinion than Tom would do his.

One well-placed source says: "Katie and Tom want to surround themselves with fellow Scientologists these days, and they are distancing themselves from anyone who is not a believer.

"For Tom, a non-believer like Victoria is very dangerous. She is opinionated, strong-minded, privately very against Scientology and has voiced her doubts."

Her refusal to subscribe to the religion - that has at its core the study of the spirit and the belief in an immortal soul that passes from one body to the next through countless reincarnations spanning trillions of years - will surely have disappointed Tom.

His closest Hollywood friends appear to be those who either embrace it wholeheartedly or are open to its ideology, such as Jennifer Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony, and Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett.

When Tom dated Penelope Cruz he managed to persuade her to go to Scientology meetings. Ex-wife Nicole Kidman refused to give up her Catholic heritage to convert.

She is said to be unhappy that she doesn't get more time with the two children she and Tom adopted, who both live with him.

Although such speculation is denied by Tom's spokeswoman, Julie Polkes, some critics believe he even fired his agent Pat Kingsley, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, in April 2006, because she also refused to convert.

Victoria was spotted reading a Scientology manual when she first arrived in California - but insists Tom has never tried to persuade her to join, claiming "it never even comes up in conversation. Someone can worship a rock as far as I'm concerned, if it makes them happy!"

Polkes is equally keen to stress that Tom is unconcerned by Victoria's lifestyle, saying: "Tom does not judge his friends habits or non-habits."

She adds: "The constant reports they are not friends are ridiculous. Tom and Katie are extremely close to the Beckhams."

Over the past year, Tom's preoccupation with Scientology seems to have been matched only by his wife's obsession with her image, and under the glare of the media spotlight she has morphed from a natural beauty to a meticulously groomed woman, mature beyond her years.

Yet the more she spends on designer clothes and expensive haircuts, the more distant and distracted she seems.

One witness who watched her enter Via Veneto last week noted that she looked "pale and thin, almost robotic - like it was a chore to register any emotion at all".

And despite her oversized sunglasses they said "it looked like her eyes were red and swollen behind those shades, like she'd been crying earlier. Something seemed to be troubling her".

Her gaunt appearance and glassy eyes have certainly sparked a great deal of muttering in Hollywood circles, with speculation divided into two camps: some believe that it is the result of her own increasingly zealous devotion to Scientology, others think that it is the result of her copying Victoria's eating habits.

The pair have been spotted lunching together in upmarket LA restaurant Modeo, reportedly sharing one salad plate, one fish and a side order of spinach between them.

Katie is said to have been so enamoured by Victoria's size zero figure, which she maintains with a 900-calorie-a-day diet of edamame beans and seaweed shakes, that her own weight has plummeted to 7st 12lb - more than a stone underweight for her 5ft 9in frame.

Yet, when they are apart they appear to abandon their competitive undereating.

At one of Victoria's three birthday parties last week, held at Eva Longoria's Beso restaurant and without Katie, Victoria ate lobster ravioli and even a piece of birthday cake.

"Everyone clapped afterwards as it's so unheard of for her to down so many calories," says a source close to the star.

In addition to losing her curves, Katie has also abandoned her girl-next-door wardrobe of jeans and T-shirts in favour of designer dresses, and swapped her long flowing hair for a structured bob.

She looks like a carbon copy of Victoria. "When Victoria first moved to LA there was a degree of hero worshipping on Katie's part," says a source close to the women. "She copied Victoria's look, the way she dressed and, worryingly, what she ate."

Now Tom is reportedly concerned that his wife is turning into a Victoria clone. And it is not only the drastic dieting he is said to take issue with.

"In many ways Victoria is very un-Hollywood," says the source. "She hates working out and has yet to go to a gym in Los Angeles.

"She lives on a strict diet, treating herself to frozen grapes to keep her going during the day.

"Then in the evening, she will work her way through several chilled glasses of white wine.

"Both Tom and Katie think it's very unhealthy. Neither of them are big drinkers, no one is in Hollywood.

"It's not part of the healthy lifestyle and Katie isn't the sort of girl to go out for a girlie night of drinking."

It seems Victoria has had to find new friends to share the odd glass of wine with, which she has in the form of Desperate Housewives star Longoria and fellow Briton Beckinsale.

"Eva thinks Victoria is hilarious and loves hanging out with her," says the source.

"They are alike in many ways. She is very into her grooming, like Victoria, and does everything possible to turn back time. "Katie isn't really into that sort of thing. She's so much younger than Victoria she doesn't have a line on her face to worry about."

The two have also begun to clash over Victoria's dry and sarcastic sense of humour.

"They have offended each other over different things," the source says. "At a Welcome to LA party that the Cruises threw for the Beckhams, Tom was dancing like a crazy man, sweating and really going for it.

"Victoria made a joke about his lack of co-ordination on the dance floor, but it bombed with Katie. "Then Victoria suggested to Katie that she should go and get herself a tattoo. Victoria considers hers to be miniature works of art, but Katie said she thought they were tacky. They didn't speak for a while after that."

Apparently, the couples also have differing views on parenthood. The Beckham children, Brooklyn, nine, Romeo, five, and attend the exclusive, £9,000-a-year Curtis School on Mulholland Drive and Cruz, three, attends preschool.

But their parents have an unstarry approach to the school routine. As one mum at the school puts it: "We expected to see a series of nannies and bodyguards dropping them off, but most days it's either David or Victoria picking them up and collecting them. They act like regular parents and have no attitude." Tom's elder children, Isabella, 15, and Connor, 13, who he adopted with first wife Nicole, are home-schooled, as will be, presumably, his and Katie's two-year-old daughter Suri.

They are, it seems, a family trying to exist in a bubble separate from the outside world, while the Beckhams are increasingly trying to integrate into local celebrity society.

Indeed, while Tom and Katie celebrated Suri's second birthday with a lavish £40,000 party, which the Beckhams did not attend, Victoria celebrated her birthday, the day before, by picking at chicken fajitas with her sons at the much more public Pink Taco Mexican restaurant.

The tension between Victoria and Katie could well be exacerbated by their respective careers.

Victoria is about to release a new collection of her clothing line, dVb, while Katie's plans to launch her own fashion empire have yet to materialise.

Added to this is the decline of Katie's acting career. Her latest film, Mad Money, flopped earlier this year and Tom is said to be reluctant for her to put work before her family.

It is perhaps a feeling of claustrophobia and lack of control that last week led to unsubstantiated reports - dismissed as "false and irresponsible" by Polkes - that Katie was unhappy with Tom and wanting to escape.

The irony is that while Victoria and Katie's friendship continues to disintegrate, Tom is even closer to David, who is now playing football for LA Galaxy.

They are believed to have gone out on the town in Los Angeles several times in recent months as well as running together in the city's Fryman Canyon.

Tom is even reported to have been giving David skincare advice, recommending face creams and avocado face masks to keep him looking young.

"Tom hasn't quite given up on persuading David that Scientology is a life-changing and wonderful thing," says the source.

"But he tends to see David privately. He thinks David is more malleable than Victoria. She is less pliable, stronger and more opinionated." It is a description that would, perhaps, perfectly describe Tom. Indeed, maybe it is the clash of two such strong egos that is causing Katie's fragile demeanour in the first place.

If this is the case, one can only hope both Tom and Victoria realise this before she self-destructs altogether.

Additional reporting: Peter Sheridan in Los Angeles

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