Ginger Spice's Departure Marks "End Of The Beginning"

Can there be a Spice World without Ginger? Since Geraldine Halliwell, the feisty redhead and self-proclaimed "leader" of the Spice Girls, announced her final exit from the group on Sunday, that is the question lingering on everyone's mind.

Last Wednesday, British tabloids had reported that egos were clashing so severely that the five band members bickered from Helsinki all the way back to England. When the Spices landed at Heathrow Airport, Geri stomped off in a huff. The remaining quartet assumed she'd get over her anger and rejoin the girls for their National Lottery show later that night. Not so.

On Thursday, when the former nude model, Turkish quiz-show host and house cleaner was a no-show for the band's sold-out Oslo, Norway, show, the depleted group apologized to fans for Ginger Spice's absence, which they said was due to "gastroenteritis." But rumors began to fly concerning her whereabouts. Would Sexy Spice, the personification of Girl Power, really miss a performance for a tiny tummy ache? Ginger's failure to appear at Friday's second performance in Oslo further fueled speculation about her ultimate departure.

Then, calling from a cell phone, Geri reportedly vowed to the other Spices that she would never sing with them again. Sources close to the band claim that Geri had had enough of Mel B.'s constant tormenting and her remarks on Ginger Spice's "two left feet." In a statement read by her lawyer, Julian Turton, Geri said, "Sadly I'd like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls. This is because of differences between us. I'm sure the group will continue to be successful."

Successful or not, this wrinkle in the group's world domination plan could spell problems -- or at least much hand-wringing among fans and those with a financial stake in the group. It has been reported that the Girls -- or Geri herself -- could be sued by promoters upset about the Spice Girls' ... well, diminished flavor.

This morning, New York metro area promoter Delsener-Slater was contemplating what to do should thousands of ticket-buyers demand refunds for the sold-out, $60 million, 40-date North American tour, which is scheduled to kick off in West Palm Beach on June 15. However, by this afternoon, Mitch Slater said, "it's been very quiet [in reference to complaint calls]."

According to sources at West Palm Beach's Coral Sky Amphitheater, only two people had called about refunds. Dave Williams, president of Cellar Door Productions, one of the largest concert promoters in North America, said that as long as the tour goes on as the Spice Girls, there's little to worry about. "It was never Ginger and the Spice Girls," he says, "it was always the Spice Girls ...."

And though all members of the Spice Girls are co-writers of the group's biggest hits as well as partners in the holding company Spice Girls Ltd., British papers have reported that lawyers may reach an agreement whereby Ginger forfeits her upcoming tour earnings (an estimated $10 million) as a preventive measure that the Girls not sue her for leaving.

Questions about Spice Girls products arise as well. Since merchandisers created products surrounding the five women, will they be forced to make new T-shirts, pins and other paraphernalia? Most likely, which is great for every teenager who invested in the old Spice Girls' products.

"I would think that the T-shirts would become a collector's item, because that item will no longer continue to be produced," opines Glenn Gulino, head of the licensing department of the William Morris Agency, which handles the Spice Girls' products. And since all five of the Spice Girls own their trademarked name, Geri will most likely continue to reap the benefits of doll, T-shirt, and accessory sales, with or without her mug on them, much like Bill Wyman did when he departed the Rolling Stones. That alone could earn Ginger Spice a few million dollars, since the Spice Girls (through merchandise, their movie, album and ticket sales) earn up to $75 million per year.

Of course, Ginger Spice already has amassed a reported $30 million fortune during the last two years, which leaves her free from financial woes and open to pursuing a solo career. But don't expect to see an album out any time soon. An English television executive reported that "a [TV] career or managing other bands and passing on the Girl Power ethic is the future Geri will want to develop."

As for the remaining four Spices, their publicist Alan Edwards says: "The Spice Girls are here to stay -- See you at the stadiums." One New York tabloid reported that the band plans on replacing the former Spice with an American avatar, whom they will cast in much the same way the original members were -- through an open-call audition. The alleged audition is said to be slated for late August. Edwards, however, vociferously denies this claim, and has dubbed the new era of the Spice Girls "The End of the Beginning."

Of course, with Geri's surprise departure, coupled with Posh Spice's plan to couple with Manchester United soccer star David Beckham and Scary Spice's recent engagement, it looks like the Spice World is dead-set on destruction. Perhaps, though, this is just another chapter in the brilliantly written story of a fabricated phenomenon, created with a built-in demise.