Out-Landan-ish? Maybe, but these flamboyant twins have street smarts to match their standout personas.
Their reputations precede them. Mention their name – Landan – and you get a telling facial expression and a colorful story. A snarky one at that. But my chat with Jon and Andrew showed them to be much more benign than the gossip websites such as TMZ and TheDirty lead us to believe. In fact, they’re hard workers with a breadth of experience that play to their current career paths as Chicago’s party kingpins.
Some think you don’t have ‘chops’ and are just glorified party planners, but you mentioned that that you started at the bottom and worked your asses off. What’s the real story?
Jon: I started throwing parties when we were 16 for our friends [at Latin School of Chicago and Frances W. Parker, which the twins attended]. I got a job at a tanning salon down the block from my house and would hook up people I met at East Bank Club with free tans, which is how I got into nightclubs when I was 16. The entire thing just got my mind going, and I thought that nightlife was amazing. Billy Dec used to come up to college [at University of Wisconsin—Madison] and bring me party flyers to hand out. He knew that I was the next generation of what he was doing, and so he hired me to work at his company, Rockit, right out of college.
Andrew: I’ve been in advertising since day one. Right out of college [at Indiana University], I went to Kelly, Scott & Madison, where I learned the advertising business. I stayed five years, working my way up from an assistant media planner to a supervisor running a $40 million piece of business.
Where was your first place out of college?
A: Neither of us made enough money, so we shared a 700-square-foot studio downtown and basically ate bagels and cream cheese. But it was a great building. Not that it mattered, because we were basically never there. It was more for status; we’re city kids and we’ll sacrifice whatever to support our lifestyle.
You went to a city high school and Big 10 universities, and met a lot of people. Did that help for what you do now?
A: At schools like Indiana and Wisconsin, you’re hanging out with kids that are born to be in fraternities. I knew nobody at Indiana; I was a city kid with a bunch of suburb kids. I really had to work my way in with these kids. Once I was in, I took over and started bringing them back to Chicago to go to events with my brother.
J: Back in the day, there was no Facebook. So nobody knew that our dad was in jail [Henry Landan was incarcerated for attempting to defraud a bank as the twins went to college] or that our mom was this crazy woman who didn’t give us anything – I hid all that stuff. We were both hanging out with the wealthier kids. It’s not like I needed to hang out with them, but those were just the friends that I had and I didn’t want to be embarrassed.
When did your careers get more serious?
A: We slowly but surely moved up the ladder with who we met and what we did. I was at AOL, UGN Entertainment (a Division of Hearst Corporation), IGN Entertainment and Jon was at Rockit, throwing parties all over Chicago. He now throws the Phil Stefani New Year’s Party. We slowly started to make a reputation for ourselves. We created a database of hundreds of venues, caterers, vendors and sponsors and continued to refer back to our contacts to keep throwing events.
Do you consider being a ‘socialite’ something that requires hard work and effort?
J: On a scale of 1-10, we work at an 11 because if we were to just stop, nobody will hand us a finished product.
A: People just think what they want to think, and they don’t change. If you asked 9 out of 10 people who is the founder Chicago Interactive Social Club [an organization of advertising professionals that Andrew founded in 2012] they wouldn’t know. I like to be the eyes behind the curtains and make sure everything is running smoothly. I don’t take proprietorship over the things that I do.
How did your childhood make you who you are?
J: I went to Camp Ojibwa when I was 11. These kids were all suburban and they put me in Cabin 6 with the reject oddballs. I told the owner to move me to Cabin 7 with the cool kids, even if I got teased. I figured it was a lot better getting teased by the cool people than not being around them at all. Ultimately, these kids became my best friends and we all went to college together.
How did your relationship with your parents have any bearing on your adulthood career?
J: Our parents didn’t want to be parents from start to finish, only when it was convenient. That’s why we’re against getting married and having kids anytime soon. We want to make sure that we provide our children with enough emotional support.
A: My mom shut down when we turned 18 and child support stopped. She told us to ask our dad for the money he was hiding. And my dad was like Santa Claus but only wanted to show us off to his friends. They were absent and negative. My brother and I decided that we didn’t want roadblocks in our lives.
You have the reputation for ‘embracing’ neon in everything, from what you wear to party and home décor. What’s with that?
A: We just like it and always have. Our bar mitzvahs were at Traffic Jam and our give-away was a pair of neon boxers, long before it was cool or any designer came out with it.
J: Seven or eight years ago, I was drunk one night and put on two huge neon watches and all these models started coming up to me and talking about them. So I kept doing it and it became a trend. Another look we started is wearing opposite shoes. Now Nike is starting a line where they’re selling opposite pairs.
Where would you be now if you didn’t have each other?
A: To be a child going through what we went through growing up would be tough. Being twins, and using it for business…there’s no way we would be where we are right now without using that tool.
J: We did go to different colleges and nobody knew we were twins, so you can’t say that we wouldn’t be successful without each other. We had our own things going on. But the ‘Landan twins’ began when we would go out at night when we were 22, and it was then we realized we could use it to be more successful.
Any parting words of wisdom, now that you’re 36?
J: You have to have at least 10 different things going on at once, because if three of them don’t work, you’ve got seven left.
A: Some of the best decisions in life that you make are the ones that you don’t. Jerry Kleiner told us that one.
Adrian Orozco Photograph