Bill Hayes, the actor and singer who with his wife in real life, Susan Seaforth Hayes, acted on NBC’s Days of Our Lives as the first and most loved couple of daytime TV, passed away on Friday in Los Angeles, a spokesperson from the show said to usnewsdaily. He was 98.
Before he became famous as a soap opera star, Hayes was a regular on Sid Caesar‘s popular live TV variety show Your Show of Shows, and in 1955 he had the top song in the country, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”
He also teamed up in a nightclub show with future Brady Bunch actress Florence Henderson; they were called “The Singing Sweethearts” and sang about Oldsmobiles on TV ads, many of them done live.
Hayes came to Days of Our Lives as Doug Williams, a lounge singer and scammer, in February 1970. Seaforth Hayes, who played the rich and spoiled Julie Olsen Banning Anderson Williams, had been on the show for 15 months before that.
The actors tied the knot on Oct. 12, 1974, and then their characters also got married (for the first of three times!) on an episode that was on Oct. 1, 1976. They used their real wedding vows for their first TV wedding.
“In 1974, Susan and I had a wedding in my living room with 16 people,” Hayes once said. “In 1976, when Doug and Julie had a wedding, we had 16 million people.”
Of course, the TV wedding happened after Doug had married Julie’s mom (Patricia Barry), who would die a sad death, and had a daughter with her (that would be Julie’s half-sister).
He and Seaforth Hayes made history when they were the only soap actors to be on the cover of Time magazine. The headline on that Jan. 12, 1976, issue: “Soap Operas: Sex and Suffering in the Afternoon.”
Doug and Julie “took a cruise” and left Salem as the actors left Days of Our Lives after a fight over stories in 1984. They came back to the show on and off for the next few decades, and fans always loved to see them. The couple even moved to Peacock when the show went there in September 2022.
In a 2011 interview with TV Guide, Seaforth Hayes said her husband — who was 18 years older than her — was “a real lover of life, and he has shown me how to have a wider view, which I think is probably the reason why we are still very happy to be with each other 24 hours a day.”
They got a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmys in April 2018.
“I have been friends with Bill for a long time, and he was the essence of Days of Our Lives,” the show’s executive producer Ken Corday said in a statement. “We are sad and will miss him, but Bill’s lasting legacy will stay in our hearts and the stories we share, on and off the screen.”
He was one of three sons of a World Book Encyclopedia salesman and a housewife, William Foster Hayes III was born on June 5, 1925, in Harvey, Illinois. He went to Thornton Township High School and played the violin and sang in the school band.
Hayes joined the Navy Air Corps and served for two years, where he learned to be a fighter pilot, and then he finished his degree in English and music at DePauw University in 1947.
When his younger brother was sick with strep throat and couldn’t audition for a part in the national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel — which had been a huge hit on Broadway — Hayes took a train to Chicago and tried out for him at the Shubert Theater. He got a job that paid $70 a week for about four months.
In summer 1949, while he was studying for a master’s degree at Northwestern, the young Hayes got another job as a singer and actor with a vaudeville-style show, Funzapoppin, led by the famous comedy duo of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson.
The pair was soon hired to host a live variety show that was a 13-week summer fill-in for Milton Berle’s very popular Texaco Star Theatre on NBC, and they took Hayes with them.
That led to him being an original performer on NBC’s Your Show of Shows for five years, where Hayes worked with Imogene Coca, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and his singing partner Judy Johnson.
At the same time, Hayes also acted in another Broadway musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Me and Juliet, with Ray Walston, Shirley Jones and Shirley MacLaine, and played Margaret Dumont’s son in the comedy movie Stop, You’re Killing Me (1952).
“The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was first played on the first episode of ABC’s Disneyland in October 1954. Hayes made his version two months after that, in one try, and it sold more than 4 million copies. (Fess Parker and Tennessee Ernie Ford also made their versions that year.)
His wife remembered that when she first met Hayes’ family in a 1981 article for People magazine, she said, “Bill’s house was a mess.” “He had no money, and the kids were wild, living on pizza. It was a crazy household. I thought he needed help.”
After their first scene together on the show, Days of Our Lives head writer William Bell “noticed something in our eyes and said, ‘Wow, I think I’ll write more scenes for them,’” Hayes said in his documentary. “He wrote some great flirty scenes for us later on.”
When Days of Our Lives star Macdonald Carey brought them together, Seaforth said, “I tried not to stare because I had bought his songs,” she said in 2022. “I had watched him on Your Show of Shows, and I had seen him in the national show of Bye Bye Birdie. And he was the most handsome thing, the sexiest thing, and then he turned out to be sooooo nice.”
They had their first kiss (on the show and in real life) on July 23, 1970.
When the daytime show became one hour long in 1975, Hayes had more time to sing as his character started his own club, Doug’s Place. He often sang “The Look of Love,” which was Doug and Julie’s song.
In 2004, Doug was killed in a cemetery fight with the crazy doctor Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall), but no, he was alive, and showed up later on an island.
Hayes also acted in Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal (1963) and with Carol Burnett on a 1964 CBS version of her Broadway hit, Once Upon a Mattress, and he was a guest star on shows like The Interns, Matlock and Frasier.
He and Robert Clary, who was on Hogan’s Heroes and Days of Our Lives, had lunch together almost every Thursday for years. (Clary played Robert LeClair, who was Doug and Julie’s best man at their first TV wedding.)
Hayes and his wife wrote a book about their lives, Like Sands Through the Hourglass, in 2005; wrote a historical fiction book, Trumpet, in 2012; and started a website, soapoperasecrets.com, in 2021.
Besides Seaforth Hayes, he is survived by their five children, 12 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.