Bill Hayes, Susan Seaforth Hayes
There has been a lot of hoopla — understandably! — about the September 26 relaunch of NBC's Days Of Our Lives and the return of supercouple Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall. But, truth be told, we're just as excited that Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes — the true First Couple of Salem — are also headed back to the show. Watch for them September 23 through 28 when their characters, Doug and Julie Williams, appear for the dedication celebration of the new Horton Town Square. These two beloved legends — married in real life since 1974 — made the cover of Time magazine in 1976 when they, and Days, were the hottest things going. (Of course, trivia buffs know Mr. Hayes was hot even before that as a singer — in 1955 he had the No. 1 single in America with "The Ballad of Davy Crockett.") Now, with the demise of All My Children (farewell Joe and Ruth!), Doug and Julie are the longest-running couple in soaps. TV Guide Magazine spoke with the irrepressible, ever sassy Seaforth Hayes to get her thoughts on the Days reboot. What will it take to keep her in town and make her the new Alice Horton?
TV Guide Magazine: I've always admired you two for the way you weather the ups and downs at Days. We might not see you for months, or years, but you always come back smiling. No sour feelings.
Seaforth Hayes: Bill and I were talking about that just this morning. You can be sore and hurt and mad about it or you can go on and have a wonderful life, which we're endeavoring to do. We travel. We have fun together. We're just putting the finishing touches on our first novel. It's taken us four to five years and it's very rip-roaring.
TV Guide Magazine: Give us the deets.
Seaforth Hayes: It's called Trumpet and it's very romantic, though not a romance novel. It's an historic novella, covering 20 years of the Regency period, and one of the main characters in Giovanni Belzoni, the great Italian explorer. Napoleon is also in it. It's also about the theater. We've had a hell of a good time putting it together. It's very sexy and a lot of fun and everything I really know about acting is in this book. Of course, it's all happening in another century but it's the same feelings — all the stresses and the delights and the fears I've known as an actress are in there. [Laughs] But that's not what you and I are supposed to be talking about! The public relations people want us to be talking about the newly revitalized Days of Our Lives.
TV Guide Magazine: Oh, we'll get to that. This is interesting stuff! You and Bill won raves for your memoir, Like Sands Through the Hourglass, a few years back. I like that you actually write your own books, unlike certain other daytime divas we might mention.
Seaforth Hayes: What can I say?
TV Guide Magazine: Well, what can you say?
Seaforth Hayes: Not everybody can set down a clear sentence. Those ladies have other gifts. Other gifts.
TV Guide Magazine: What have you done with the real Susan Hayes? Look at you being diplomatic!
Seaforth Hayes: [Laughs] I have to. I'm an elder in my church!
TV Guide Magazine: So when's the book out?
Seaforth Hayes: Probably in January, published by Decadent Books.
TV Guide Magazine: Decadent! Only you. I love your life.
Seaforth Hayes: Well, Bill is a real lover of life and he has taught me to have a broader horizon, which I think is probably the key to our still being deliriously happy to see each other 24 hours a day. We can still squint and fumble and make ourselves out across a crowded room. [Laughs] Oh, there is so much history. We've been going to these Days book-signings lately and we'll just look at each other and say, "Nobody knows but us. Nobody would believe it but us."
TV Guide Magazine: That's right. You and Bill have been out on the road with [Days co-exec producer] Greg Meng doing the book tour! [Meng is the mastermind behind the mega-seller coffee table book Days of Our Lives 45 Years: A Celebration in Photos.]
Seaforth Hayes: Yes, and fans have been turning up in the proverbial droves. They are as enthusiastic as all get out. And they're also buying our autobiography and Billy's CD as well so it's a good reason for us to go. Meeting the fans has been very illuminating and we are constantly reminded of what soaps have lost along the way — the generational support. People used to say they inherited their Days habit from their grandmother or their mother. There was a time when three or four generations of a family would be committed to our show. We don't have that as much anymore. But there are still a lot of people who care and they're very excited to see us. I'm grateful to still be on the scene to witness that, because it affirms we were once doing something very good. But, again, we digress. They want us talking about that relaunch!
TV Guide Magazine: Okay, okay! How do Doug and Julie fit into the big event?
Seaforth Hayes: [Laughs] Why, thank you for asking! It's nothing hugely important but it's a charming set of shows and I was very happy to be doing them. We laugh it up for a few lines here and there and go through old pictures and stuff like that to remind the audience of who the Hortons were. And we'll be singing together which is rather hilarious. Someone at Days seemed to remember that Bill and I sang together on the show in the past when, in fact, he and I have never done that. [Laughs] But if that's how they remember it, fine. We will sing Irving Berlin's "I'll Be Loving You Always," which was Tom and Alice Horton's theme. I think maybe Billy sang it at their 40th anniversary party. It's extremely sentimental and sweet and romantic, which is the direction they want the show to turn in.
TV Guide Magazine: We could all use some good old-fashioned sentiment on the soaps right now. Nobody does it better than Days.
Seaforth Hayes: I thought they handled the loss of Alice beautifully, as opposed to when they sort of kissed off Tom when Mac Carey died. Salem was never Mayberry but in recent years it has turned into something of a snake pit where you wouldn't want to raise your family. They are attempting to turn the show around emotionally so that you have characters you can not only love to hate but actually love to love, and root for. Certainly the return of Matthew Ashford [Jack], Christie Clark and Patrick Muldoon [Carrie and Austin] and Deidre and Drake [Marlena and John] promises something besides a nest of vipers. This is the return of truly likable people and romance follows from that. From likability grows love grows romance, and the show is going to become really romantic again. We desperately need it.
TV Guide Magazine: Why has true romance become such a rarity on the soaps?
Seaforth Hayes: Soaps have become a visual medium and that demands action and crisis and violence, evidently. We've been attempting in the small theater of daytime drama to lead with violence and shock and there's damn little to be shocked about in the world anymore, so it's all been rather futile to have one crime storyline after another. Our real world is scary enough. So they're rebooting, revitalizing and refreshing the show. I think we will have fewer rendezvous down at the pier, which is dark and shady, and more lunches at the new Horton Center, which has been established to honor and remember the Horton family in a big way.
TV Guide Magazine: It's good to see Days responding to the crisis in the soap world and acknowledging its past mistakes, unlike, say, the execs at The Young and the Restless who seem to be sabotaging their show every way possible these days. It's crazy.
Seaforth Hayes: I wish our government could move as swiftly as our producers have been moving. Time is short. Greg Meng has been eating his heart out getting the show in a good place. I know he's doing everything that's humanly possible. There's real heritage here. There's real legacy.
TV Guide Magazine: Where the hell have Doug and Julie been anyway?
Seaforth Hayes: [Laughs] It appears they have been perpetually cruising for a decade! I assume they have one of those condos at sea. Sometimes when the writers haven't wanted us back for a big event, they announce that Doug and Julie were delayed at the airport and failed to make that last connection. [Sighs] It is what it is. But we have a meeting scheduled with the new writers, so maybe I'll find out if there is a plan for us.
TV Guide Magazine: That sounds promising if they're calling you in for a meeting!
Seaforth Hayes: Well, not necessarily. I asked for the meeting! [Laughs] What can I say? Hope springs eternal.
TV Guide Magazine: What are you planning to tell them?
Seaforth Hayes: I will tell them that once upon a time Doug and Julie were spicy characters who used to do a good deal of comedy and now we are more than happy to become the new Tom and Alice. Bill is so suited to that. He has 13 grandchildren and he is a great source of enlightenment and help and guidance to all of them, and he is greatly beloved by them. He could be that same kind of a figure in Salem — a character man of goodness as opposed to the character men of badness who are already well-established on the show. As for me, I'm happy to turn into Frances Reid! I'd be proud to! But I think we could be the new Tom and Alice with some real bite. Perhaps it only seems like Doug and Julie have been doing all this cruising. Who knows? Maybe they've secretly been up to something else all over the world. We could come back dripping with back story from our absence. We seem to be suspiciously well-to-do. Being a source of money ought to put us in the center of all kinds of excitement!
TV Guide Magazine: And it doesn't hurt that you two are still the most gorgeous people on the planet!
Seaforth Hayes: Well, our writers will have to come to their own decision about that. [Laughs] But my doctor and I thank you!
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