Interview

ICYMI - Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes Interview

Credit: NBC

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes Look Back On Their Stories On- And Off-Screen Romance

 

Soap Opera Digest: What stands out to you now about the day that the two of you met?

Bill Hayes: Oh, I can remember the
actual moment. Our first meeting 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.”

Seaforth Hayes: I remember looking at Billy across a crowded room and it taking my breath away. And also, he was wearing pants that looked like saltwater taffy! They were brown and beige striped and they fit that little behind just great!

Hayes: [Then-Head Writer] Bill Bell did not put our characters together until April, so that was three months before we ever did a scene together.

Seaforth Hayes: We would converse and get to know each other. We went from being professional friends to friends to rapturous. I was rapturous, Bill was being pushed [laughs]! It was fun every minute.

Hayes: Bill wrote us the best story anybody could ever have. Julie was supposed to have one plot and Doug was supposed to have a different plot. I was supposed to be working with Sister Marie. Bill Bell put us together for one scene and he loved so much what was between the two of us that he scrapped my story and he scrapped Julie’s story and he did a long, long, long wonderful arc-ing story for Doug and Julie and it was the best.

Seaforth Hayes: We were longing for each other with obstacles, which I think traps the audience into rooting for the characters and wanting it to happen. Bill Bell was very strongly against ever letting us get married and as soon as he left the show to create THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, they married us. Everyone who was watching the show remembers the wedding and remembers how they cut school to watch the wedding, all of which is very gratifying that it stands out in people’s minds. Following that, there was a long period of not knowing what to do with us because we were obviously happy! Happiness is not an ingredient to drama, so things changed until my mother  [Elizabeth Harrower] was made head writer of the show [in 1979] and she decided the best thing to do was to go back to the Bill Bell policy and separate us. So ever since then, we have been separated and reunited, separated and reunited until we were no longer
considered romantic at all.

Hayes: But we had the best story. Absolutely fabulous story. Everybody in the country watched Bill and Susan fall in love and Doug and Julie fall in love all at the same time.

Seaforth Hayes: And Bill Bell knew it before we knew it ourselves.

Digest: Oh, really?

Seaforth Hayes: Oh, yes! Absolutely. Sitting in Chicago watching television, he could catch on to what was going on without us admitting it to ourselves and I’m really grateful. He gave me a wonderful life. The saddest day of my career, in addition to those days where I’ve been fired off DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, was when the storyline changed and Bill Bell wrote [Julie’s mother] Addie into the show a wealthy widow and Doug, for the sake of monetary reasons, married her. 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.

Digest: Were you at all hesitant to get involved because you worked together?  

Seaforth Hayes: No, not because we worked together, but because Billy had five children. He was a single parent and his first marriage had dissolved.

Hayes: I was hesitant. I was just divorced and I did not want a relationship. No, ma’am!

Seaforth Hayes: He wasn’t ready for it and I was more than ready for it! I went to my
producer and I went to our pastor with the,“I want him! I want him! I want him! I want him!” And the advice was to relax.

Hayes: “Cool it.”

Seaforth Hayes: “For God’s sake, cool it!” Particularly my producer, Wes Kenney, an Emmy-award winner of course for making judgments like that one [laughs]!

 

NBC

Digest: Did you keep your relationship quiet in the beginning or did your co-stars know you were together?

Hayes: I think co-stars knew. Susan Flannery [ex-Laura] and Denise Alexander [ex-Susan] certainly caught on immediately. Immediately! You can’t get anything past Susan Flannery, for sure. And Denise wanted to date Billy, too, and graciously stepped aside. I began to give lavish dinners in my mansion house downtown, which my mother and grandmother had purchased.

Hayes: It was a boardinghouse.

Seaforth Hayes: It was a boardinghouse that had been owned by the mayor of Los Angeles in the early 1920s and built in the first decade of the 20th century. It was a beautiful old historic house with lots of glamour.

Hayes: The dinners were spectacular.

Seaforth Hayes: I bought a whole set of cookbooks, and every time I would have a dinner for 10 people or 12 people, including Bill Bell, I would invite Mr. Hayes. But Billy wasn’t that easy to catch! He had been through hell with his divorce and in the position of being a single parent and not overpaid at that time, not that we ever are, but he was really not overpaid and was going to go back east and teach after six months on the show because he needed a little more financial support.

Hayes: They were paying $186 an episode.

Seaforth Hayes: And doing two episodes a week, that didn’t quite feed everybody. He told [then-Executive Producer] Betty Corday he was leaving and he had a contract later that same day. Thank goodness!

Digest: Was it hard in the beginning to separate Doug and Julie falling in love from Bill and Susan falling in love?  

Seaforth Hayes: No, no. Bill was able to separate it easily and I was young and stupid and intent on protecting Bill for his own sake. “You’re not going to put so-and-so in the red tie. That red tie belongs to Bill.” “No, you don’t want to have the camera follow her upstage, it should stay on Bill.” I really was awful! Jumping in there and not helping our situation at all.

Hayes: 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 Elizabeth’s house, 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.” Of course, Elizabeth is a very witty person. It was very exciting. She wanted to have a whopper wedding.

Seaforth Hayes: My mother.

Hayes: Susan and I just wanted to get married. We got married in our living room. Sixteen people. Two years later, Doug and Julie married and they used exactly the same words that we used in our living room.

Seaforth Hayes: Same vows. Same everything. And the second time Doug and Julie were married, it was similar. Bill used a poem that his grandfather had written and we were allowed to select the love song that we wanted which was “The Rose” that Patty Weaver [ex-Trish] sang so beautifully. And Bill got to sing, “Till There Was You.” To me!

Hayes: And it was true! I know it was Doug singing to Julie but it was Bill singing to Susan. We’ve had the best of everything. We really have.

Digest: We have a photo of you celebrating your real-life marriage at the set.

Seaforth Hayes: Is there a sheet cake? We got married on Saturday. Monday morning, we came to work and in the middle of the day, they found out we got married and had a hasty sheet cake. Usually when you get a sheet cake, you’re off the show, but that day they gave us a sheet cake for being there and I remember this very clearly Jack Herzberg again said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve gotten three layers [laughs]!”

Hayes: I never heard that one!

Seaforth Hayes: We called Betty Corday on our wedding night to tell her and she was very pleased and very sorry we hadn’t invited her. I was lucky to invite my father at that point. It’s a small living room.

Digest: What was the reception you got at the show after your wedding?

Hayes: I think everybody liked it. I think people enjoy our marriage.

Seaforth Hayes: Yes, some people say it gives them hope in the institution and it makes them feel good to see us expressing our affection for each other. Every marriage is different and ours has been a blessing in my life. I never thought I could ever be this happy. I was raised in a broken home and didn’t know a lot of married people, certainly not happily married people. The happiest marriage I ever met was the three marriages in Billy’s family: his parents and his two brothers. There’s something about that Midwestern streak that just brings out the best!

 

Getty

Digest: When you said “I do” back in 1974, did you know it was forever?

Hayes: Yes.

Seaforth Hayes: Oh, yes. I was streaming tears. I knew this was the turning point of my life
and Bill was a serious person. Though a divorced man, the divorce had not been his choice. I now realize how long forever is and how wonderful forever is. I can’t imagine going forward in life without this stupendous partnership.

Hayes: Boy, we have been blessed! We have had health, we’ve had good times together, we’ve worked together, we get along. How many couples do not?

Seaforth Hayes: And we’re had an entwined career thanks to DAYS OF OUR LIVES, which is also unusual and amazing and great.

Check out Soap Opera Digest’s new podcast, Dishing With Digest!

Listen on Google Play Music

Comments