The new editor in chief of Details is Daniel Peres, a jovial 28-year-old who looks like he might have wandered off the set of Friends . Fairchild Publications chairman and editorial director Patrick McCarthy personally anointed Mr. Peres, a favorite of several years, to retool the identity-plagued men’s monthly, which will relaunch in late September. “I know Dan, and I work well with Dan, and he works well with me,”Mr.McCarthy said. “We like each other.”
Former colleagues describe Mr. Peres as a “frat boy,” mentioning his smooth, boyish charm and beer gut. “He’s the kind of guy that’s like putty,” said one. “Smart enough to know what’s expected of him.”
On a recent afternoon, that beer gut was tucked discreetly into Polo khakis, a dark blue Armani shirt and a black pullover. In the six weeks since Mr. McCarthy summoned Mr. Peres from Paris, where he lived on the Boulevard St.-Germain as European editor of the Fairchild crown jewel W , he has had to buy a whole new wardrobe. “I thought I was coming for a long weekend,” he said.
A well-scrubbed, husky 6-foot-1 with a slight squeak in his voice,Mr.Peres was sitting in Details ‘ temporary digs in Condé Nast’s overflow building at 360 Madison Avenue. Behind him was a bottle of Louis Roederer 1994 Cristal Champagne, a congratulatory gift from the French designer Christian Lacroix. In the fall, the magazine will be moving to Fairchild headquarters on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. (Condé Nast and Fairchild share a parent company, Advance Publications Inc.; seven months after Advance Publications’ August 1999 purchase of Fairchild, Advance chairman Si Newhouse handed Details over to Mr. McCarthy like an errant stepchild in need of a good spanking.) Nights, Mr. Peres has been installed at the Morgans Hotel until he moves into a new rental on West 11th Street, which has a balcony and several fireplaces.
For the past several years, Details has been as confused and noncommittal and as difficult to fathom as the typical Manhattan male. In its latest incarnation, it tried to be Maxim, the loutish beer-and-babes magazine, to the point where Details’ owners hired Maxim’s editor, Mark Golin. He was there for a year before the magazine closed for repairs. Other editors have also fallen to the curse of Details . In January 1999, editor Michael Caruso boasted to the New York Post , “My numbers are so good, they are going to be giving me a big fat raise.” He was fired a week later. Mr. Peres will be the sixth editor in a little over a decade to try to hit upon the answer to the post-Freudian question, What do men want?
“We are not our fathers,” declared Mr. Peres, sitting with legs crossed. “Straight men are interested in fashion now. One-hundred percent. We are interested in grooming .” His new assistant, a blonde woman with a pink pashmina shawl wrapped around bare shoulders, brought water in styrofoam cups, then backed away. “Look, I like nice things. I like to be dressed nice,” he said. “I vary my products, O.K.? I’ll use Kiehl’s , I’ll use Aveda, I’ll use Edge. I’m fond of shaving. It just so happens that we’re across the street from a shop called the Art of Shaving, so I had to go over there one day and I bought, like, a brush and a jar, and a thing with foam and a preshave oil-all of those things. It’s great.” (One could perhaps be forgiven for flashing on Patrick Bateman, the serial-killer protagonist of American Psycho , who numbly recites his elaborate toilette.) “Style and status are still important,” he said. “That didn’t end with the 80’s.”
Founded in 1982 by Annie Flanders as a cozy downtown magazine with a large gay following, Details went from hot to cold to hot to lukewarm to virtually kaput under the oversight of Condé Nast’s editorial director James Truman. Under Fairchild’s Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Peres’ mandate seems clear: Infuse Details with class and decorum and a post-straight, even Eurochic, element. An anti- Maxim . But not gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that …)
Don’t expect to see Jennifer Love Hewitt tumbling out of her blouse on the cover of the new Details . “I had the plane ride over to look at men’s magazines with scantily clad women on the cover, and frankly, I was embarrassed to be reading them,” said Mr. Peres. “When men go on a business flight, they don’t want to have huge tits, if you’ll pardon the expression, on the cover.” He says he wants to bring hobbies back to men; he recently bought a signed copy of an H.L. Mencken memoir on eBay for $180.
Mr. Peres will be working alongside Markus Ebner, a 30-year-old publicist for fashion public relations powerhouse K.C.D., who has been hired as Details’ fashion director. “Dan and I are straight in a funny way that’s some sort of a bond with us in the fashion world because there’s not many peers we have that are straight,” said Mr. Ebner. Raised in Germany’s Black Forest, he has known Mr. Peres for a few years.
“I don’t like most of the magazines that are out there right now,” said Mr. Ebner in thickly accented English, “because I’m not someone who’s into the whole T&A thing. If Cindy Crawford was naked in Playboy I’d probably buy it, but I don’t want to see her half-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine. Because it’s just everywhere. Everyone does that.”
But what do men want to see in a magazine? The current crop of men’s magazines have long been rattling around in cultural obsolescence. They pick up their share of American Society of Magazine Editors awards every year; GQ’s Art Cooper and Esquire’s David Granger go right on having parties like nothing has changed. But while smart women can get away with the occasional frivolous dip into Vogue or InStyle (at the gym, perhaps), do you know anyone who reads Esquire or GQ or Maxim on the StairMaster? Would you want to date him?
Meeting Mr. McCarthy
Mr. Peres doesn’t belong to a gym and, though he likes to watch sports, isn’t particularly athletic. “Look, I don’t need to put fashion on Derek Jeter,” he said. He grew up in suburban Baltimore; his parents divorced when he was 18 months old; he has an older brother, Jeff, an investment banker. His mother worked in retail and his father was an oil businessman. “Lubricants,” he said.
At his private day school in Baltimore, Boys’ Latin, he became editor of the school newspaper. “I always had this strange hero worship in terms of writers or different people,” he said. He chose New York University, he said, because “it was close enough to Baltimore so that I could schlep laundry back home on occasion.” He majored in journalism and American history and became editorial page editor of N.Y.U.’s Washington Square News .
In his sophomore year, he got a job on the overnight shift as a New York Times copy boy. “It does sound sort of glamorous, but really the best part of it was just walking into that building on 43rd Street,” he said. “Otherwise, you know, it was just carrying papers up from the printing room, carrying them to the various editors and having absolutely jet-black arms. I spent a lot of time looking out the window.” He didn’t meet any mentors there; once, an editor yelled at him to stop whistling.
He also worked as a country-club waiter, golf-course greenskeeper and briefly as a “bottom feeder” on two Esquire supplements. But, he said, “I would read Details . It was hip. It was James Truman and it was amazing. You wanted to read it. You needed it!”
Mr. Truman, for whom the hand-off to Fairchild has proved something of a public-relations disaster, didn’t take an opportunity to return the compliment. “I only have one thing to say,” he said, “which is to say that you should talk to Daniel and Patrick and not me.”
Mr. Peres got his first real job after college graduation at Fairchild Publication’s Daily News Record , the trade paper covering men’s retail, through family connections (his grandparents owned Lanns of Baltimore, a now-defunct chain of retail stores). He was the sweaters and knitwear editor. “I was writing about yarn ,” he said. But it wasn’t long before he captured Mr. McCarthy’s attention. “I remember reading this piece he’d written, a party piece about some menswear party, and it was just really well-written and clever,” said Mr. McCarthy. “And he wrote about the media, some story about Esquire versus GQ , and I noticed that.”
And so, Mr. Peres was invited over to the equivalent of the popular cabin at girls’ camp: working the gossipy Eye page at D.N.R. ‘s higher-profile sister, Women’s Wear Daily. “It was an extraordinary experience. Phenomenal ,” said Mr. Peres, who claims he isn’t much of a drinker but fondly remembers doing tequila shots with Penny Marshall at one rodeo-themed party hosted by Mickey Schulhof in the Hamptons. “You have to blend in in order to do it well, but you’re not there as a guest, you’re not one of them. Patrick warned me about that early on: ‘You’re going to think you’re an A-lister.’ I never did.”
His mentor liked the way he handled pressure. “There’s those guys-they’re sweating and the shirt’s always undone, and they all look, ‘Oh, I’ve been in the office since 8 in the morning till 10 o’clock and I’m slaving, blah blah blah,’ and they look so put upon,” said Mr. McCarthy. “Dan never looks like that.”
During this time, Mr. Peres dated Robin Jonas, a publicist for Miramax who was in her mid-30’s, leading some at Fairchild to dub her “Mrs. Robinson.” Citing potential future work conflicts, Ms. Jonas declined to discuss the relationship.
Last spring, Mr. McCarthy tapped Mr. Peres to be European editor of W. He got an apartment in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and oversaw W bureaus in London, Paris and Milan, and a staff of 35. It was a job Mr. McCarthy himself once had. It caused something of a stir among the Fairchild rank and file. “It wasn’t like he was this incredible reporter and breaking all these stories and making his mark,” said an ex-coworker. “He was just a nice guy and an inveterate schmoozer. He gets this job at this dopey trade paper and then the next thing you know he’s sitting there with Blaine Trump. The whole point was to go schmooze with socialites and their daughters and that’s what Dan is really good at … he’s a real mama’s boy.”
But Mr. Peres claims to be a quiet fellow. “I’m not a scene person,” he said. “Being photographed gives me hives. Hives .”