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DAYS OF OUR LIVES Legend Bill Hayes Dies At 98



Bill Hayes, the legendary and multi-talented performer best known to daytime fans for his long-running role as Doug Williams on DAYS died on January 12 at the age of 98.

Born William Foster Hayes III on June 5, 1925 in Harvey, Illinois, Hayes served in the Navy Air Corps before completing his degree in music and English at DePauw University in 1947. His showbiz career launched when Hayes decided to audition for a musical in Chicago. He recalled to Digest in 2017, “Carousel had just left New York and was starting its national tour in Chicago, and my young brother Phil had written to the stage manager of Carousel and said, ‘If you need a tenor, I’d like to audition,’ ” Hayes begins. “Well, he had a card that said, ‘Come to the Shubert Theater at 2 o’clock on Tuesday and sing a song.’ When I got home after college, Phil had strep throat and couldn’t make a sound, so I took his card and I scratched Phil off and I put Bill on and went down to Shubert Theater at 2 o’clock on Tuesday and sang a song and I got on the show. I was in the singing chorus, and I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, you can get paid for singing? Acting? Doing stage work?’ I had no idea.” Hayes continued to hone his craft, studying voice at Northwestern and earning his master’s degree, and made his television debut in 1948 on THE ADVENTURES OF HOMER HERK. In 1950, he got an even bigger break when he was cast on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, which co-starred Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. “I’ve been told that I’m the longest- running person who’s been appearing on national television,” Hayes marveled to Digest in 2017.

In 1955, Hayes became an even bigger star when he recorded “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”, which became a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts. In his 2017 conversation with Digest, Hayes recalled, “Archie Bleyer was the head of Cadence Records, and he called me in the morning of December 16, 1954, and he said, ‘Are you able to record a song with me?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ He wrote the arrangement and I studied the song and we met at 10 o’clock that night, recorded it in one take, and we were on the way. It’s a gold record and it’s on my wall and I’m looking at it now.” Soon, Hayes was touring the country on the strength of that hit. “It was incredible,” he told Digest. “Everybody in the audience would know every word in the song. It’s just that good a song! Everybody in the country today still knows it. If I start singing, they’ll sing along with me. It was quite a magic ride. It just took off like a skyrocket.”

Hayes’s professional success continued, with multiple appearances on THE TONIGHT SHOW and a Broadway run in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Me and Juliet. But by 1969, the nomadic reality of a career in entertainment took a toll on his first marriage, to Mary Hobbs. Hayes noted to Digest in 2017, “Show business is a traveling business. You do theater, you travel. You work on a film, you travel. You work in clubs, you travel. Show business was too much for her and she just left, and suddenly I needed a job where I stayed home. My [five] kids needed me here.” Hayes’s desire to put down roots prompted him to join the DAYS cast, and in February 1970, fans of the show were first introduced to Brent Douglas, the con man better known as Doug Williams.


Early in his DAYS career, Hayes fell in love with his leading lady, Susan Seaforth. They married on October 12, 1974.

The role not only became the longest-running of his career, but his serendipitous casting introduced him to his beloved wife, Susan Seaforth Hayes, his longtime DAYS leading lady. As the actor put it to Digest in 2018, “Everybody in the country watched Bill and Susan fall in love and Doug and Julie fall in love all at the same time.” But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. He told Digest in 2018, “What I had to go through post-divorce was anger. I just didn’t want to have a relationship. It was just too hard on me that way. I divorced in 1969 and Susan and I married in ’74. If I’d been normally free in my mind, it would’ve happened a lot quicker but I was not ready. In 1974, my youngest daughter graduated from high school and that was the end of a certain responsibility on my part. My parents celebrated 50 years of marriage and that was an affirmation of relationship and marriage. I took my kids for four weeks to London and that was a family experience that was just fabulous. 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!’ I put on my cowboy hat and my cowboy boots and went over to [the home of] Susan’s mother, and I got down on one knee and I said, ‘I would like to have the hand of your daughter.’ She said, ‘Nope! You have to take the whole girl.’ ” The couple wed at home in front of 16 people. “Two years later, Doug and Julie married and they used exactly the same words that we used in our living room,” Hayes recalled fondly.


In 1976, the same year their characters tied the knot, the Hayeses appeared together on the cover of Time magazine.

Hayes exited DAYS in 1984, then returned from 1986-87 and 1993-94. After a 1996, he came back from 1999-2003, and returned permanently in 2004. In 2018, along with his wife, Hayes was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys.



The Hayeses posed in 2018 with their Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmys.

Reflecting on his life to Digest in 2017, Hayes noted, “I’ve had quite a varied career, which started in one direction for a long time and then suddenly stopped and started in another direction. I’m very proud of it. I was on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, which was one of the best television series of all time. I played on Broadway. I have a hit record. I’ve been on DAYS OF OUR LIVES all these years. I’ve done wonderful things in my career, but what I’m happiest about is my family. I have four children left, I have 12 grandchildren, I have 24 great-grandchildren and that’s my treasure.”

In a statement, DAYS Executive Producer Ken Corday said, “I have known Bill for most of my life and he embodied the heart and soul of Days of our Lives. Although we are grieving and will miss him, Bill’s indelible legacy will live on in our hearts and the stories we tell, both on and off the screen.”

We send our deepest condolences to Hayes’s family, friends, and colleagues.