The Landan twins
Meet the Landans, identical twins who've managed to make a living out of partying.
It’s June 1, and Barack Obama is in town for a fund-raising event at the Chicago Cultural Center. Jon and Andrew Landan are in the front row, pushed against the velvet rope, preparing for the big moment: Obama, flanked by security guards, is walking toward them, shaking hands with everyone he passes.
“The twins from East Bank Club!” Jon shouts as he shakes the President’s hand. “What’s going on?”
There’s a millisecond of uncertainty—will he remember them? Then, there it is: “Mmmrrff frrf mrrff rrrf,” Obama says before moving down the line.
The YouTube video ends.
“Did you hear that?” Jon screams. “Play it again!” We’re on the 39th floor of the Aqua building in Lakeshore East, in an apartment owned by Jon and Andrew’s friend, watching the 19-second clip on a 50-inch 3-D television. It’s nearing 3am.
“Play it again!” Andrew demands.
Their friend obliges, restarting the video Andrew recorded, and Jon posted, of the Obama encounter. (Its title: “President Barack Obama Reminisces W/ The LANDAN TWINZ.”)
After four times watching—with the Landans giddily narrating—what the President is saying becomes clear. “These are the two biggest hacks on the basketball court.”
Jon and Andrew Landan, 35, are identical twins who dress in head-to-toe neon. They live together and are rarely apart, going out at least four nights a week to charity events, restaurant openings, music festivals, Wrigley rooftop parties and River North clubs. They wear large, black-framed glasses with no lenses. They also wear contacts. They usually sport bow ties. A few years ago, they were rarely spotted without bulky headphones around their necks. These days, it’s timepieces; each twin sports several bright plastic watches on each arm. They are very, very tan.
The twins also draw attention because they are loud and pose for a lot of photos, often directing a bro-ish sideways peace sign at the friend, celebrity or quasi-celebrity they are with. Recently, this list has included Mayor Rahm Emanuel, electronic music artist Skrillex and rapper Drake, whom they met at his concert’s after-party at club V Live in Logan Square. On the party circuit, rumors about the Landans fly: They have bunk beds. They have trust funds. They don’t have jobs. This, Jon bristles at: “We’ve been working since we were 13!”
But that is the mystery surrounding the Landans—what do they do, besides go to parties and document them on Jon’s Facebook feed, a carnival of LOLz and capital letters and exclamation points? (Andrew’s page is private.) Even friends are curious. “What do you exactly do? Whatever it is…looks like an awesome job lol” posted one woman on Jon’s wall on June 5, after he put up the Drake photo.
Jon’s answer was to “like” the post. The real answer is more complicated: The brothers Landan are surprisingly business-driven and have managed to turn partying into a paycheck. (“Not partying,” they correct me during one conversation. “Interacting.”) They make cash by planning events, hyping events and getting sponsorships (i.e., companies who pay to get their products or representatives in front of an audience of young partiers). Jon does this freelance, consulting for restaurants and clubs. Andrew works mainly through his new company, Chicago Interactive Social Club, which throws monthly networking events for people in the advertising industry. Companies like job recruiting firm Onward Search have paid between $2,000 and $5,000 to do things like dole out raffle prizes and collect business cards at his events. Andrew will also tweet and Facebook about sponsors, and use their name in e-mails that go out to a list of 10,000.
People either love or hate the Landans, says one event planner familiar with Jon and Andrew. Recently, I was at a party for the W Lakeshore Hotel’s new seventh-floor deck and, in the interest of this story, mentioned the twins. I was met with eye rolls and some snarky gossip about them hooking up with a friend of a friend. Another day, right after interviewing Jon and Andrew, I ran into a friend, the wife of a River North chef, and she asked why I was clutching a notebook. “Do you know the Landans?” I asked. She laughed. TheDirty.com, a national gossip blog, tags Jon and Andrew as both the “Landork Twins” and “shomos,” a blend of short and homo. (The twins say they’re straight.)
Yet, they’re doing well enough in their solo ventures that Andrew quit his job as an account executive at Fox-owned IGN Entertainment in April. Jon left his gig as marketing director at Rockit Ranch last year. (The trust-fund rumor is just that; the brothers don’t receive any support from their parents, who are estranged from the twins.) Meanwhile, Jon last month was appointed secretary of the board at Gateway Green, a high-profile nonprofit dedicated to beautifying Chicago, for his work on annual fund-raiser Green Tie Ball. Laugh at them all you want, but the Landans—35-year-olds who wear armfuls of Day-Glo watches yet win the trust of fiftysomethings in stuffy dark suits—are emerging as legitimate entrepreneurs.
When Obama good-naturedly called the Landans hacks, he was critiquing their performance on the basketball court at East Bank Club, where the President regularly played when he lived in Chicago. The Landans have been working out at the swanky health club since eighth grade. I join them there on a weekday afternoon. Walking up the main staircase, Jon high-fives Oprah’s boyfriend, Stedman Graham. (“That was Oprah’s boyfriend,” Jon tells me. “Did you get that down?”)
The twins’ privileged childhood included a four-story Gold Coast townhouse, where they threw parties for their classmates at Francis Parker and the rival private school, Latin. The first one, in 1994, they named “Landstock.” Jon also got into the club scene in high school, hitting spots like Elixir and Shelter with people he met while working at a tanning salon, who got him in without ID.
This lifestyle ended abruptly, the twins say, when they were 18 and their dad “went away.” Went away? They share a quick look. “Jail,” Jon says bluntly. (Their father, a lawyer, was convicted in 1996 of attempting to defraud a Texas bank out of $10.5 million. He served a 6.5-year sentence.)
The twins had just started college, and their mom cut them off financially. “If we needed anything, she’d say, ‘Go ask your dad’ and she knew our dad was away,” Jon says. “It was crazy.”
“We don’t talk to either of our parents,” Andrew says. “Nobody knows that. But I’m not ashamed of it.”
They supported themselves—Jon at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Andrew at Indiana University—by “working in mail rooms” and also doing what they knew: throwing parties. By charging a $3 cover, they could walk away with $500 in a single night. UPDATE: Though the Landans did work during their college years, their father paid most of their tuition. We regret that the Landans misled our readers on that point.
(Our conversation is interrupted by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice, who stops by our table in East Bank’s café to high-five the twins. “That was Simeon Rice,” Jon tells me.)
After college, the twins lived together for four years in a 700-square-foot studio in River North and saved every penny they could: Andrew doing ad sales at Kelly Scott & Madison and AOL (later, Hearst Corporation and IGN); Jon spawning a promoting career out of the club connections he made in high school. He started at Bortz Entertainment (owners of erstwhile megaclub Circus) and then launched his own club-consulting company, ALife Group. In 2005, the Hyatt on Wacker Drive hired him to consult on Hard Drive, a club that opened with a bang but quickly lost steam. After that: Rockit Ranch.
The Landans talk quickly, finishing each other’s sentences in loud bursts. Everything is a superlative. “The greatest.” “The biggest.” Even their family drama ended up being “the best thing that could have happened.”
“We were bitter then,” Jon says.
“But it helped us be independent,” Andrew finishes. “And have to work. And know what a dollar actually means, and not go out every night and spend all our money on bottle service and alcohol.”
What about the post on restaurant blog 312 Dining Diva calling out the twins, Zac Efron and Heather Graham for racking up a $135,000 bill—including a $100,000 bottle of Champagne—at River North club Board Room on a Tuesday night last October? It’s a true story, they say, but an undisclosed billionaire had sent over the bottle and picked up the tab.