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by Katie Butler Johnson

We all enjoy a good love story.

Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes have a great one.

It all began April 14th, 1970 at the “Days of Our Lives” office in California. That’s when HE first spotted HER and SHE first met HIM. He was (still is) a strikingly handsome man from the mid-west with dreamy blue eyes, a gorgeous voice and enviable resume.

His career on stage had required working nights and included tons of travel. Finding himself single with 5 kids to parent, he wanted a job that got him home to them at night. So, he’d joined the cast of “ Days of Our Lives.“ His kids were the center of his life. He’d no intention of ever marrying again. But, when that stunningly beautiful twenty-six -year-old brunette walked into the room that April day, he noticed.

Already a cast member at “Days of Our Lives,” she’d recently ended a romance with a narcissistic somewhat arrogant television newsman who was never going to be her forever guy. She was a California Girl, raised in Los Angeles, daughter of an actress/screen writer who just happened to be scripting for “Days of Our Lives.” She was (still is) a talented beauty, quick witted and smart as a whip.

Flash forward several years. HE (Bill) and SHE (Susan), who’d become friends at “Days of Our Lives,” are assigned a story line that has them working together as Doug and Julie. When they begin appearing together on screen, the chemistry between them is obvious. As that chemistry grew, fireworks began to explode off screen. Noticing this, the writers crafted scripts that moved both the fictional romance and the real one quickly along. As Doug and Julie fell in love on reel, Bill and Susan fell in love for real. On October 12, 1974, Bill and Susan were married in a modest ceremony in Bill’s own living room with just 16 guests present. When their characters Doug and Julie married on the NBC show on October 1, 1976, an estimated 16 million tuned in for the long anticipated nuptials.

When I was offered the opportunity to interview this legendary soap couple, I jumped at the chance. David Friant and I had a Zoom Meeting with Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes January 10tt. It lasted an hour. They were gracious, easy to be with and generous with their answers. We began as strangers; I feel we ended as friends. Bill and Susan even serenaded us with a song from 1911 - “Somebody Knows” - when asked if they had a special song.

After the Zoom, eager to know more about this couple, I went on Amazon and ordered both the January 12, 1976 Time Magazine in which they were profiled and the autobiography they co-wrote: “Like Sands Through the Hourglass”.

That January 12, 1976 issue of Time Magazine has them on the cover, captured in a dramatic pose, with the words “Soap Operas - Sex and Suffering in the Afternoon” - printed on the lower left corner. They’re profiled in a half page article titled: “The Soaps’ Hottest Lovers” which has Time declaring: “Susan is the diamond in the crown of ‘Days of Our Lives’ which also boasts the brightest writers and the best acting.’” Time gave their show a full 4 tear drop graphic - the highest rating given any soap opera on the long list of contenders.

I read all 309 pages of “Like Sands Through the Hourglass” in one very long day. I couldn’t put it down! Bill and Susan reveal all - even some spicy stuff. I won’t say any more. You’ll have to read it yourself. They include pages of photos from different times in their lives. The book is delicious. I’ll leave my copy at Celebration’s office so you can stop by and see the pictures yourself.

Bill and Susan are generous in support of charities. They’ve done many telethons supporting various causes. If they watch TV, it’s generally the news, 60 Minutes, Jeopardy or “Days of Our Lives” on the screen. Their favorite books are the 20 books in the Aubrey-Maturin series of nautical historical novels by Patrick O’Brien. Currently they’re writing their own historical novel.

You can learn more about Bill and Susan and follow them and their endeavors at “Secrets of Soap Opera” where 96 year old Bill and 78 year old Susan share their continuing love story and the wisdom they’ve culled from over 46 years of their very happy marriage. •

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