Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes – they were the reigning supercouple of Days of our Lives (before the phrase was invented), and their red-hot passion was so undeniable that it landed them on the cover of Time magazine. It was an honor never again achieved by soap opera performers… but why try to recreate perfection?
How Did Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes Meet?
It was a combination of dogged determination, desperation, and the machinations of a co-star and a head writer that led to their first meeting.
She was an actress who finally landed the role she had auditioned for – three years and three recasts earlier. He was a recent divorcee with five children looking for job security.
Hayes remembers their initial introduction “happened in January of 1970 in the office at Studio 9 on the NBC lot, upstairs in the office and Macdonald Carey [ex-Tom] introduced me to Susan. He said, ‘Bill, this is our Susan Seaforth.’” According to Seaforth Hayes it was practically love at first sight and Hayes concurs.
He says that his character’s original purpose was “to have a story with Sister Marie and get her defrocked… But then, the character of Susan Martin offered Doug $10,000, to go after Julie and break up her marriage to Scott Banning!
“We did a scene, when Doug joined Julie and Scott Banning out to dinner. Doug was advising them on security on their stocks and bonds in order to steal Julie’s money! It was there that Bill Bell [the head writer] saw something. He scrapped my story and he scrapped Susan’s story, and he began to write a story for us.”
That “story” was a love affair that ignited the imaginations of millions of daytime devotes who waited upon tenterhooks to see whether or not Doug and Julie would manage to find their way to each other.
They watched as one wedding was scuttled because of the appearance of another wife Doug thought dead. Then attempt number two was ruined after an argument about their honeymoon resulted in Doug running off and marrying the woman who would have been his mother-in-law – a development that did not sit well with Seaforth Hayes who called it “the saddest day of my career.”
She continued, “This is a shock to America and a shock to me and I asked Jack Herzberg [producer], ‘Well, am I ever going to work with Bill anymore?’ and Jack Herzberg said, ‘No. No, no. Never again.’ The bottom dropped out of my universe, I got to tell you.”
From Reel-Life to Real-Life
But while there was trouble brewing on-screen, it was smooth sailing for the nascent lovebirds off-screen and thanks to three pivotal events occurring in 1974, the pair were about to supersede their on-screen counterparts.
Bill Hayes recalls, “My youngest daughter graduated from high school… My parents celebrated 50 years of marriage and… I took my kids for four weeks to London… Those three things put together finally released me from this, ‘I don’t want a relationship. I don’t want to hear about it or talk about it or feel it or anything.’
“Suddenly, all that went away and I remember saying to Susan, ‘How about a week from Saturday?’ and she said, ‘Good for me!'” The wedding was held in Hayes’ living room that October in front of 16 witnesses.
Seaforth Hayes says, “The next day we were working. I remember asking, ‘Can my name on the ending credits be changed to ‘Mrs. Bill Hayes’?’ The show said, ‘No.’ I wanted to be ‘Mrs. Bill Hayes.’ It was the most wonderful name I could imagine.”
Two years later, with Doug now a widower, he and Julie were free to be married. By coincidence, about 16 million fans viewed the festive occasion and during the fictional ceremony, the couple recited the exact same vows that had bound them in legal matrimony.
While their real-life marriage has proven strong and unyielding, the same can’t be said for Doug and Julie. They were torn asunder a mere 24 months later and did not reunite until 1982.
During that second wedding, in yet another instance of fact and fiction melding, Doug read a poem that had been penned by Hayes’ grandfather. Subsequently, the duo left town – a result of the couple’s real-world firing – and when Seaforth Hayes was asked back in 1990, Julie returned sans Doug and was paired opposite John Aniston’s Victor.
“All I felt was resentment to poor John. I did everything I could to make sure the scenes wouldn’t work and, sure enough, they didn’t.” When Seaforth Hayes was written out in 1993, she was reunited with Hayes’ Doug.
Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes – Collaborators
Though the couple has been sporadic guests on DAYS since the mid-1990s, they have filled their downtime with a number of collaborations – most notably their 2006 autobiography and the historical romance novel Trumpet.
According to the spouses, “The depth of our intimacy has only been increased by attempting to create a work of art together.”