Susan Seaforth Hayes Looks Back On The Glory Days of Soaps

What do you think of when you hear “glory days” of soaps? “I think about when so many of us were on the air and everyone was talking about the plots on various shows, young people being excited about the show and lots of daytime television magazines.”

How would you describe the glamour and prestige of soaps when you first joined DAYS? “Well, prestige-wise, none. We were supposed to look very natural. We weren’t encouraged to do anything special or fabulous looking; the emphasis on the show was on the acting and the story. I was fortunate that I came along when [former Head Writer] Bill Bell was there. He watched the show on the same day that everyone watched it. He wanted to experience it the same way the audience was experiencing it. He would call back with notes all the time. And we rehearsed. We read through for cuts and changes and discussion the day before, blocked it the day before, then the next morning, came in at 6 a.m. and continued to rehearse in the rehearsal hall, then we would go on camera, then we would have another rehearsal, then we would have a dress rehearsal and then in the middle of the afternoon, we would finally shoot it. It was huge. The amount of time we were devoting to the nuances in the script showed. And I became part of a wonderful acting company — Frances Reid [ex-Alice] and Mac [Carey, ex-Tom], Ed Mallory [ex-Bill], John Clarke [ex-Mickey], Susan Flannery [ex-Laura] and Denise Alexander [ex-Susan] was the cast when I came on. Everyone was serious but we spent so much time together that we knew each other. Indeed, it was a family. The glamour came later, and the emphasis on appearance came later with the emphasis on a bigger budget, which was wonderful.”

Doug and Julie became huge after Bill Hayes, who you then married on screen and off, joined the show in 1970. How did you handle the success? “It gave me a mistaken sense of my own importance in the greater scheme of things, and I probably didn’t handle it very well. Bill handled it beautifully. Bill had been through it all before, when he was on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS and it was the most popular show on Saturday night and he was the most beautiful singer. You couldn’t walk into a theater to watch a movie without people jumping over their seats to get an autograph to be with him. He knew what it would be like. I’m not talking about the relationship with the fans. It wasn’t that. It was my relationship with the job. I thought my opinion mattered. And it doesn’t. The actor’s opinion cannot matter. It just can’t. It’s just too big of an organization and too many people involved. Other people handled it really well. Deidre’s [Hall, Marlena] handled it beautifully. Other people on other shows have handled it beautifully. I’ve loved doing the right thing and I regret doing the wrong thing from time to time. But most always, the wrong thing was between me and the producers.”

You and Bill landed on the cover of Time magazine in 1976. What was your reaction to hearing that? “We didn’t know. We walked into the commissary and saw it. I couldn’t believe it. I thought surely it was going to go to a New York show. I was thrilled. And I think that same year, I was nominated for Best Actress at the Daytime Emmys.”

Do you have any favorite memories from events you went to back in the day? “The first would be the first Daytime Emmy show. Billy sang and it was in Rockefeller Center in the skating rink and it was very glamorous. And I got a dress and Billy got a suit at Giorgio’s [in Beverly Hills]. He looked very Gatsby in a white linen suit with a darling cap and I had a chiffon gown. I thought, ‘How could anything top this?’ And I don’t think anything ever did. And then there was another awards show where all the actors who could sing had a special piece of material written and we sang as a choir, and it was funny and we all sounded great. It was wonderful. I was thrilled to be part of that, too.”

Do you have one special memory from something great that you got to do because you were on the show? “We got to be guided through the Hopi Indian reservation by Hopi fans who saw that we had booked a room at the Hopi hotel there. We were traveling on our own and they recognized the names and it turned out we were the only network that the reservation received. They only got NBC. We got to go into homes and see a kachina dance. It was wonderful, stepping into another reality about America and a beautiful place with beautiful people who were just as excited about Doug and Julie as New Yorkers. It would never have happened if not for the show.”