The Landan twins
Meet the Landans, identical twins who've managed to make a living out of partying.
Former Illinois treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is no Zac Efron, but he is at River North’s Hubbard Inn on a Thursday night, putting on the twins’ glasses and taking goofy photos on Andrew’s iPhone. A small posse, including Giannoulias and the Landans, has ended up here after a charity event with Bill Clinton at House of Blues, which the twins chose over a grand-opening party at Gold Coast rooftop Drumbar.
It’s a ridiculous world—packed with overlapping parties and free drinks and insincere hugging and overzealous card swapping; chiefly populated by liquor reps, club owners and society couples. The Landans get invited to hang out with celebrities like Efron and Graham via connections they’ve made in New York and L.A. Front-row tickets to Obama and Clinton events come from Francis Parker connections or friends like restaurateur Phil Stefani, a regular client of Jon’s. Other events they’re helping throw, like a Green Tie Ball preview party, held at Hubbard Inn just hours before the Clinton speech.
It seems counterintuitive that folks in charge of a black-tie charity ball would want input from the guys who, in April, had their birthday party at River North nightclub bevy, encouraged every guest to wear neon and passed out neon sunglasses printed with i [heart] landan.
But organizers of Green Tie Ball, which started in 1981, need to attract a new audience (i.e., young people with money) if it—and more important, Gateway Green—wants to last another two decades, and the Landans are the ones to do it. With one click on Facebook, Jon can get the invite out to his 4,447 virtual friends. “Jon is the ultimate hype man,” says the event planner, who requested anonymity. “He’ll introduce you to everyone and say things that are so flattering. It’s his way of making connections with people. And he is good at connecting people. [Both twins] have those old-rooted connections with people who go out and spend money in Chicago.” With Jon’s help, Green Tie Ball saw 2,500 guests last year, about 1,000 more than in 2009.
“These guys, they helped shake [Green Tie Ball] up,” says Steve Traxler, a Gateway Green board member. “They provide all the energy,” says Grant DePorter, board chair and the son of Gateway Green’s founder.
At dinner at Carnivale on a Wednesday night—owner Jerry Kleiner, despite the 20-year age gap, is one of the twins’ closest friends—Jon gets a text; suddenly, a meeting is set up for 9pm at Mercer 113, the newest bar on Hubbard Street. Two owners of a highbrow sound equipment company are interested in bringing Jon on freelance as their Chicago point person, helping them find events and clubs that might want their services.
The meeting goes well. A few hours later and a few shots in, sitting at Studio Paris, Jon tells me every relationship he makes, every night he spends out and everything he does is about business. Trying to find a nice way to ask him if that totally sucks, I go with, “Does that ever make you feel like you always have to worry about what you’re saying?” He smacks the head honcho of the sound equipment company, interrupting his conversation with a blond woman. “Do I have to watch what I say around you?” Jon demands. The guy doesn’t respond. He turns back to me. “I don’t have to watch what I say.”
Near the end of the night, two guys who know the Landans come in, one wearing a Rockit Ranch cap. He says he’s a comedian, and tells me a joke, in reference to the twins, about gingham and bow ties. The punch line is: douche bag.
On a sunny Tuesday outside of East Bank Club, the Landans—sporting madras shorts and matching pink-and-yellow pedicures from the Spa at the Peninsula—say they don’t have time to give a shit about anyone who makes fun of them or doesn’t invite them to events. “They thrive off of anything people say about them, whether it’s good or bad. They use it to their advantage,” the event planner says. Even if people are gossiping about them, “they’re getting brands out there because they’re so out there.”
(They wave to local newscaster Robin Robinson, who is leaving the club. “That was Robin Robinson,” Jon informs me.)
The Landans also shrug off questions about their style. “We like bright colors,” is all Jon will say. I suspect they love the attention their look brings—it’s slightly ludicrous how many attractive women in bars want to try on their glasses or watches—but they deny this. They have been approached by several producers interested in a reality show. Mostly, they’re excited to be working for themselves. The most recent event for Andrew’s startup, CISC, begins at 6pm at Mercer 113 on a Thursday. The bar is packed by 6:04.
The most endearing moment I spend with the Landan twins is watching Smurfs 3D at the apartment in Aqua: “Gargamel!” they yell in unison when the villain comes onscreen. The most irritating moment is following Jon around Studio Paris, holding his sugar-free Red Bull and vodka while he high-fives everyone in the room. “Who were those girls?” I ask Jon about one cluster, who had turned away shortly after high-fiving him. “Family,” he replies.
Do they want wives, or kids? I ask when they’re sober.
Yes. No. Maybe. Not anytime soon. Neither of them is dating.
“With all the business ideas that we have, there’s no room for that full-time girlfriend or kids right now,” Andrew says.
“I truly believe that when you’re a parent, no matter what, you take that full circle even if it’s hurting your own life, and our parents didn’t [do that],” Jon says. “So we gained family in other areas. Friends.” The twins spend holidays at Kleiner’s house.
The night we’re watching Smurfs, after the pizza their friend ordered is eaten, Jon and Andrew excuse themselves: They have Kleiner’s son’s high-school graduation the next day. They apologize for leaving early. It’s 4:18am.