In 1998, I was invited me to perform as a guest artist at the EAT’M (Emerging Artists and Talent in Music) Convention in Las Vegas. It was the largest musical happening they ever had there, with 170 groups performing and competing at hotels and clubs on the Strip over a three-day period. George Martin was the honorary guest speaker. I originally wanted to perform with my own group, featuring Lew Soloff, but due to a limited EAT’M budget, my band would have to pay its own way. So I had to rethink whether I wanted to play at the convention. My wife, Setsuko, and I had our wedding anniversary coming up during the time of the convention, so we decided it might be fun to spend a week out in Vegas, with me performing one day and then the two of us just hanging out the rest of the time.
I performed solo sax at the pavilion in front of Harrah’s Hotel, playing jazz standards and ‘sax’ lip-sinking (pun intended) to a couple of tracks from my "Better Believe It" CD. After I played, a young boy came up to me for my autograph. I gave him a copy of one of my CDs and signed it. He said, “You’re awesome.” His very cute, sincere comment made me feel good, especially coming from someone his age. Then I met a man who had just stood there (with free seats available nearby) and watched me play my whole show. He said, “You’re good. You’re really good!” I laughed, because of the “attitude” in which he said this. I knew he must have been a fellow New Yorker. He was letting me know that I played well because ‘he’ said so!
That week, Tony Bennett was headlining at Caesar’s palace. Seeing his show had been in the back of my mind. On our last day in Vegas, Setsuko and I lucked out! When I called over for tickets, two hours before his show, none were available. But the ticket lady asked me to be patient and hold on. A moment later, she got back to me with news that there was a cancellation and two tickets were available. I grabbed them! My wife and I ended up with great seats at a table up front! Tony’s performance was wonderful! My wife, who’s not really a fan of that kind of music/singing, really loved the show as well. It was especially interesting for me that almost thirty years before, in this same room, I had performed with BS&T! So we got a nice going home/anniversary present.
Setsuko and I aren’t gamblers at all. But just for a little “change” (pun intended), we gambled a little - using mostly nickels and quarters. Some hotels have these gigantic slot machines, with a huge JACKPOT. One day, I put a five-dollar bill into the machine and ever so slowly… pulled down on the handle bar. I imagined myself back in Boston, at Berklee, visiting my chairman. And I’m saying to him, “Uh, Bill… I won’t be teaching anymore. I just won a million dollars in Las Vegas!”