The entire daytime TV community is remembering the life of Days of Our Lives’ Bill Hayes — who played Salem heartthrob-turned-patriarch Doug Williams from 1970 until his death on January 10 at the age of 98. Having played one half of soap operas’ first super couple, Doug and Julie, Hayes received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Daytime Emmys alongside his on-and-off-screen other half, Susan Seaforth Hayes.
Woman’s World looks back at Bill Hayes’ almost 80-year career as an entertainer prior to his death, and shares a conversation in which he reflected on his decades in the fictional town of Salem and his real life love story with Seaforth Hayes. Plus, with online reactions to Bill Hayes’ death pouring in, we share posts from Bryan Cranston and Days of Our Lives stars Kristian Alfonso, Alison Sweeney, Lisa Rinna and more.
Bill Hayes, before he played Days of Our Lives‘ Doug Williams
Born in Harvey, Illinois on June 5, 1925, Days of Our Lives’ William “Bill” Foster Hayes III trained as a Navy Air Corp fighter pilot during the end of World War II. After returning to civilian life, he went on to earn his college degrees in Music and English, his master’s in music, and a Ph.D. in Education. In 1947, after Hayes married Mary Hobbs and slid into his performing career by taking his brother’s audition spot for Carousel, his star rose quickly.
Hayes crooned in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Me and Juliet on Broadway in 1953, and held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in 1955 with the Gold Record “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” He also made a few movies and appeared on countless TV shows – including comedies, dramas, musicals, and the variety shows of Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, Milton Berle, Jo Stafford, Bing Crosby, Johnny Carson and most recently, Jimmy Kimmel.
Days‘ Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes: A soap love story for the Ages
It’s no surprise that when Hayes came to Salem in 1970, his Days of Our Lives character would be a crooner. Finding love on the set of the soap, however, was something the divorced father of five didn’t see coming.
The first time his character Doug crossed with Seaforth Hayes’ Julie on Days of our Lives, the characters were embedded in two different storylines. After legendary producer William J. Bell saw them together, their trajectories were forever changed — on screen and off.
“Bill Bell saw something pass between Susan and my eyes,” Hayes told Woman’s World shortly before the couple won their 2018 Lifetime Achievement Emmys. “It was just like electricity going between us. Maybe even before we knew it, Bill saw it and threw out the other stories. He said, ‘I’m creating a whole new story.’ And that was our story.”
The actors started out as friends, helping each other run lines over the phone and building their onscreen chemistry – and their hard work paid off in more ways than one. While they secretly fell for each other, Days of Our Lives fans fell so hard for Doug and Julie’s romance that Hayes and Seaforth Hayes wound up on the cover of Time magazine and millions of viewers tuned in for their onscreen wedding.
“We slowly came together as a loving unit,” Hayes recounted. “We got married in real life in ‘74 in my living room, with 16 people. And then Doug and Julie married in ‘76, using the exact same words we’d used in our wedding. It was so emotional to speak those words in front of 16 million people!”
The couple went on to lead their story into the early 80s and were there to usher in one of Days of our Lives next famous super couple – Bo and Doug’s daughter, Hope.
Then, according to Hayes, they got themselves sidelined. “We speak sometimes at the wrong time and say the wrong thing at the wrong time,” he admitted. “In 1984, it got us bumped off the show. We had ‘artistic differences.’”
Since returning two-fold in 1986, Hayes and Seaforth Hayes have popped in and out of Salem and enjoyed decades of storylines and celebrations as Days of Our Lives legacy characters. After having a devil of a good time during the recent reboot of Days of Our Lives possession storyline, Hayes made his final appearance during the show’s 2023 holiday episodes – alongside Seaforth Hayes, of course.
“Over the years, we’ve been asked, ‘How is it to work with your own spouse?’ – as if it’s a bad thing,” Hayes said. “I would rather work with Susan than anybody else. I love it.”
Days of Our Lives stars honor Bill Hayes in the wake of his death
As news of Hayes’ passing spread, the stars of Salem took to social media to share their love. Here are some of the emotional posts, including a story attributed to Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston (seen in the photo above) that reflects the late icon’s kindness and generosity of spirit. Here is what other Days of Our Lives stars wrote:
Kristian Alfonso: “You will forever be in my heart Billy 💔🙏. Thank you for welcoming me, the girl from Boston with warm open arms on my 1st day and all of the days that followed, for the love and support you always gave me. How completely blessed I was to work with you to know you to learn from you. You were a true Icon. My heart is broken 💔 Love You ❤️”
Peter Reckell: “Bo and Hope followed in the Footsteps of Doug and Julie. Bill was a mentor, a friend, and I’m so thankful to have been lucky enough to have him in my life. His boundless, loving, heart was always open to everyone.”
Thaao Penghlis: “To my dear friends Bill & Susan Hayes. To Susan with love for her great loss & to our Bill who transitioned yesterday, may your new journey be as beautiful as your last. How well you sang. Travel well dear man but remember to keep an empty chair for when we meet again. Xx”
Alison Sweeney: “Bill was such a beautiful human. He brought joy, grace and talent to everything he touched. I was blessed to know him. ❤️❤️”
Wally Kurth: “He was such a gentleman. Kind and generous with everyone he met. His smile always made me smile. So lucky to have known him. 🙏❤️🙏”
Nadia Bjorlin: “Bill, you were an incredible talent & true gentleman. I am honored to have known you & worked with you. You were loved by so many, & my heart goes out to your amazing wife Susan & the entire Hayes family. Heaven is a little bit brighter now.”
Lisa Rinna: “Oh Bill rest in peace sweet Prince 🙏🏼❤️🕊️🥲”
A message from Bill Hayes to Days of Our Lives fans
As Days of Our Lives stars and viewers mourn the death of Bill Hayes and celebrate the joy he brought to their lives, the musician, actor, and writer would surely want them to know that he appreciated them as much as they did him. Throughout his run as Doug Williams, Hayes adored meeting fans – especially when he got to do so with his other half, Seaforth Hayes.
“People come by and they’re obviously overwhelmed just to meet two people who have been a part of their lives and a part of their families for 30, 40, or 50 years,” Hayes said at a fan event. “They tell us they’ve watched since day one or about how they remember watching with their mothers and their grandmothers. Seeing us takes them back to when they were sitting there with Grandma. It’s a very moving, emotional thing.
“It’s an honor,” Hayes concluded. “Fifty years of one story? It’s just wonderful, and to be a part of Days of Our Lives makes me very proud.”
Days of Our Lives star Bill Hayes is survived by real and onscreen wife Susan Seaforth Hayes, as well as his five children, 12 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.
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