For the 250 people packed into the second floor of Mike Ditka's Restaurant, Thursday's finale of "The Apprentice" was all about The Rancic. All evening, the crowd screamed every time Bill's name was mentioned, every time he appeared on screen and each time the show turned back to the Trump National Golf Club, where Bill was charged with his final management task.
The bar finally grew quiet for one moment only: As Donald Trump faced Bill and Kwame and then uttered the long-awaited words to the hometown favorite: "You're hired."
The room erupted. Bill's eldest sister, Beth Shannon, surrounded by friends and a gaggle of reporters, was elated.
"It's amazing. There are so many emotions--shock, happiness. I'm trying to process it all. The big question is what will happen to him next, but it's all good."
While Bill's two other sisters, mom and many friends were by his side in New York, Shannon held down the fort in Chicago. She said Bill's skills really fit the job.
"I think Donald values his style and his risk-taking and his energy. I think Donald Trump would know how to leverage that and use it to his advantage," Shannon said.
Was the Los Angeles job ever an option?
"No, I knew Chicago was his only choice," said Janel Horvath, whose fiance is Bill's roommate.
"His sisters are here, his mom is here--he's too much of a family man to go anywhere else."
In New York, the scene at the live finale was "very intense," said Karen Soenen, Bill's sister, who spoke to RedEye from her cell phone at the NBC studio.
"No one said a word while we were watching the video."
Bill was able to race over to where his teary-eyed family and friends were seated for a round of hugs before hopping into his new Chrysler Crossfire for the drive to Trump Tower.
"He was grinning ear to ear, and the first thing he said was, 'We did it!' " Soenen said. "It's amazing. We're in shock, and we're so excited."
Bill's co-worker at Cigars Around the World also was in New York at the studio.
"I'm so happy for him," Jennifer Davenport said. "I've only lost him in some respects; I know he'll still be there to support us and consult. I'm just thrilled for him."
Many of the people out to cheer for Bill in Chicago were from Loyola University, his alma mater. Dawn Harris, a management professor, has invited Bill to lecture in her class several times. "I've known him for 10 years. I think he has an incredible marketing sense."
Coach Mike Ditka, the host of the evening's hoopla, joined in.
"It's unbelievable. It's a great opportunity for Bill to get to manage a property like that in Chicago," Ditka said.
"Trump doesn't make too many bad deals."
--Maegan Carberry contributed.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun