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Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes Reflect on Decades of ‘Days of our Lives’

As “Days of Our Lives’ ” Doug and Julie Williams, Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes have battled Doug’s deranged ex-wife, an exploding oven and a serial killer or three — among many other challenges. Their endurance will pay off April 29 when the dynamic duo will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 45th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Calif.

Hayes’ career dates back to the earliest days of television in 1949 when he starred on Olsen & Johnson’s “Fireball Fun-for-All” and later, “Your Show of Shows.”

“The cameras were huge and immobile back then,” Hayes says. “They didn’t have the capability of zooming in or out. It was all live until 1958.”

Born in Harvey, Ill., Hayes, a singer and dancer, found success on Broadway in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Me and Juliet,” and his rendition of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” has sold more than 4 million copies. But in 1970, the divorced father who had custody of his five children wanted stability. He found it professionally after being cast as “Days’” Doug, a con artist, and personally, with Seaforth Hayes, the love of his life.

“I’d been on [“Days”] since 1968, but I was no more important to it than anyone else until Bill came onto the show and into my life,” says Seaforth Hayes, an Oakland, Calif., native whose early credits include selling television sets on “Matinee Theater” and playing a sunburned teenager on “General Hospital.”

Doug and Julie emerged as the show’s favorite couple, topping magazine popularity polls. (Their portrayers earned multiple Daytime Emmy Award nominations, too.) When Doug couldn’t tell Julie he loved her, the writers would have him sing how he felt.

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes were the original supercouple of daytime drama, and we all have been so fortunate that they remain perennially vibrant and endearing as a couple to this day,” says “Days of Our Lives” executive producer Ken Corday.

The couple wed in real life in 1974 and on-screen in 1976, the same year that Time magazine wrote about the growing popularity and profitability of soaps. Talent at serials on both coasts were interviewed and photographed. Editors selected them for the cover image.

“Knowing the magazine had a red border, I went out and bought a red negligee to wear the day they came to shoot at the set,” Seaforth Hayes says. “We added glycerin tears. I think that’s how the title ‘Sex and Suffering’ came about.”

In 1984, the couple quit “Days” after their characters’ airtime diminished. Seaforth Hayes ended up returning to the show in 1990 without her husband, and writers then tried pairing Julie with villainous Victor (John Aniston).

“All I felt was resentment to poor John,” recalls Seaforth Hayes. “I did everything I could to make sure the scenes wouldn’t work and, sure enough, they didn’t.”

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes married in 1974, after meeting on the set of “Days of Our Lives.”
NBC/Photofest

When her character exited again in 1993, it was a bittersweet moment for the actress and for much of the audience. Seaforth Hayes’ mother, Elizabeth Harrower, a former head writer at “Days,” scripted her daughter’s farewell. In it, Doug recaptured the heart of his “fair lady” with a music box that played “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”

The pair made sporadic appearances in Salem and performed on stage throughout the rest of the 1990s while Hayes also earned a doctorate in education from West Virginia University.

In 2003, “Days” called again, but this time they had reservations related to reprising their roles. The program was telling a tale in which veterans were being killed off. Hayes had one request for doomed Doug — that he go out fighting.

The show obliged, and Hayes “did all his stunts,” his wife says. She stayed on as a family mourner, noting that the show’s costume designer Richard Bloore bought her “one great black outfit after another.”

Later, the presumed deceased characters were miraculously resurrected and, today, both Hayes and Seaforth Hayes still appear on the show.

“I was no more important to it than anyone else until Bill came onto the show.”
Susan Seaforth Hayes

Last June, the couple attended at taping of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and during a break, the late night host walked into the audience. The couple’s grandson, David Samuel, alerted Fallon that his grandfather had been a guest on the show when it had been hosted by Johnny Carson and Jack Parr. Fallon turned it into a viral moment, inviting Hayes down to the sofa for an impromptu on-air interview and further proving how his talent has withstood the test of time.

The Hayeses have been nominated for Emmys before — Seaforth Hayes is even nominated this year in the supporting actress category — but they both feel that earning the Lifetime Achievement Award is acknowledgement on a different level.

“We were stunned and thrilled when we learned about this honor,” Hayes says. They have been working hard on crafting the perfect speech, she says.

“[Our grandson Brian] said, ‘You can either live in the past or tell them who you are today,’” Hayes says. “I told that to the guys I have lunch with on Thursdays. One said, ‘Do both. Sing a song, get the nostalgia in, and then tell ’em who you are!’”

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