Most freckled kids who grew up outside Baltimore and saved their Hanukkah money to buy magic tricks didn't actually end up friends with David Copperfield as adults. But Peres did, along the way working a kind of magic on his own career that made him one of the youngest editors in the industry and part of New York's high life.
"He's always kept the sensibility of a good boy from a nice suburb from Baltimore," says mentor and former boss Bill Wackerman, now publisher of Glamour. "There was an approachability to Dan and a realness that is truly unique in a town of city slickers. He seemed like he'd be your best friend from college or the guy you'd want your sister to marry, and I think that endeared him to a lot of people in the media community."
Inside Peres' office, a bowling ball sits in a corner, near a picture of Peres' young nephew crumbling a Details. A story printout sits on a table with a red line through some offending copy. It's early summer and soon Peres will leave to see the men's collections in Milan and, then, the grueling Juicy Couture bikini fashion show in L.A.
In the beginning
Several rows of Details covers line the wall, serving as a slick timeline for Peres (asked when Details started to click, Peres scans the 2002 covers and replies, "Around the time of Josh Hartnett.").
For Peres, the Details timeline starts four years ago (circa, Robert Downey Jr.), when Advance Magazine Group chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr., moved the magazine from publisher Conde Nast to Fairchild. The monthly went on hiatus, and Peres was given the mission to remake the magazine, which had flailed between a publication for urban hipsters and a turbo-charged laddie mag.
When it re-emerged as a fashion magazine for younger men, Details offered stories that openly appealed to gay and straight readers. What followed was perhaps fitting for a magazine preoccupied with the image of the modern man: Details' masculinity was challenged. With cover headlines like "Move Over, Dorothy - The New Gay Mascots Are Here," and teasers about how it's OK not to like sports and suggestions about what to do with body hair, Peres was repeatedly asked about Details: Not that there's anything wrong with it, but is it gay?
Peres argues stories don't have sexual orientations, and a sophisticated man will read an article because it's interesting, period. He argues that Details is about a "new masculinity" that isn't preoccupied with gay vs. straight.
Still, some editors branded it a closeted magazine that wouldn't admit its true orientation. Last year, Radar editor Maer Roshan cited the Details headline "Have you Had Sex with Colin Farrell Yet?" as proof it wasn't for straight men. In a column in his out-of-print pop culture magazine, Roshan dubbed Details "fey" and "gay."
Certainly, Details went a risky route. Blockbuster circulation has always belonged to the men's magazines promising women and sex. The 2.5 million-circulation Maxim has spawned successful knockoffs like FHM and Stuff (quote from a recent model/actress profile in Stuff: "I just like panties ... my tiny thong panties.") These magazines don't try to reach anyone but straight men in the mood. References to anything gay are strictly frat-boy (see: "Lesbian Islands," Stuff; June 2004).
It's not surprising, then, that circulation was higher for Details during its laddie days, reaching into the 500,000s. But the editorial and commercial success was seen when Details - current circulation 413,000 - discovered a new niche.
None of this was a consciousness-raising exercise: Advertisers are desperate to reach the affluent, successful gay and straight men in their 30s targeted by the magazine. The industry mantra holds that the more young readers a magazine attracts, the more ads it gets. The September issue includes 207 ad pages; the most yet under Peres' leadership.
At the center of this change is the workaholic editor, pursuing a long list of writers, designers, interview subjects - a person stuck to his vision (and his phone).
"When it was a Conde Nast, it was going through a ton of different editors; it just didn't know what it needed to be," says Lisa Granatstein, who covers the magazine industry for Mediaweek. "Since it has been at Fairchild and since Dan re-launched the magazine, it has really found itself. It knows what it is, and it's moving forward."
Industry observers say Details thrived by being first to exploit the metrosexual craze.
"Dan was able to create a unique product in the sea of all the men's magazines out there," says Samir Husni, a University of Mississippi journalism professor who analyzes the magazine market. "Dan had the ability to put his finger on the pulse of a new audience. I think he single-handedly navigated this magazine to where it is now."
Details executive editor Andrew Essex says the magazine's pitch is a pure reflection of Peres: