Bill & Susan Hayes - The We Love Soaps Interview, Part 3

In Parts One and Two of our interview with Bill and Susan Hayes, the fascinating and legendary duo reflected on how soaps have the power to help others, their early years on DAYS, and working with Betty and Ken Corday.  In Part Three below, the Hayes's share details of Susan's pre-DAYS years and memories of Frances Reid with my mother, Joy Jacobs, and me.

We Love Soaps: Susan, you started on GENERAL HOSPITAL.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  I did.  I didn’t enjoy it.  The atmosphere on that soap at that time was gloomy, serious. There wasn’t a lot of joy in that cast.  Maybe they were having a good time but I didn’t get any sense of it all.  It was a limited run part, so I had the sense of, “Gee, I wish I could last longer in this.”  I was also a bit frightened by it.  I dated John Bernadino [Steve on GH] a few times, which was fine.  But it was a very different feeling than DAYS.
Bill Hayes: What was the difference?
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  It was Wes Kenney. It was the attitude of the show.  Wes would walk around before and say, “Let’s have a good show.”  He would walk around to everyone, the cast and the crew, you had a feeling of the curtain going up.  The gentleman who was producing and directing GH at the time came in like God.  He never smiled.  I had done THE YOUNG MARRIEDS, which was the last black and white show on ABC, and they were a little more fun.  But they also took themselves so bloody seriously. 

We Love Soaps: It’s hard to find much information about THE YOUNG MARRIEDS.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  Susan Brown [future Gail on GH] was on.  Peggy McCay [future Caroline on DAYS] was on.  Paul Picerni, and Ted Knight [future Ted on The Mary Tyler Moore Show].  They did not like Ted Knight.  He was funny.  And then Charles Grodin was on the show.  Ted Knight and Charles Grodin would be in a scene, and they wouldn’t realize how funny it was until they ran it.  So they hated him for what they thought was mocking it.  They weren’t writing for the opportunity of having such unique artists on the show.  They wanted what they wanted.  I had an actor on the show who had never been out of the South before and had never done much.  He couldn’t handle the pressure.  He would bang his head against the wall!  We were floundering in the story line.  The show went off the air and everyone got angry.  The writers refused to close any of the storylines.  So it went off in mid-story with a shooting behind a closed door, a who-got-killed story.  There was a lot strum and drang on the set.  The furniture got as much as fan mail as some of the actors [laughs]. We had some very striking Spanish Colonial pieces.

Susan Seaforth Hayes: I was younger then, and it was cheaper production values.  We had no wardrobe, and I was playing a fashion model.  We had a five dollar cleaning allowance, but we supplied our own clothes.  I was being sketched every day, that was my storyline.  I was a model, and the leading man was an artist.  His wife, played by Susan Brown, was the older model who was now too old to be sketched.  Too old to be sketched?  We weren’t doing photography, we were doing drawings! We couldn’t afford light bulbs for flashes.  Anyway, I ended up modeling everything I own, including my own bathrobe. 

Joy Jacobs: How long were you on that show?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Two years.  It was exciting, but it was not a homey feeling.  I have a wonderful picture that I found of Susan Brown, Peggy McCay, and myself, all in gowns, in fancy-shmancy wraps.  We were going to some ABC affair. 

We Love Soaps: When you first auditioned for DAYS as Julie in 1965, you did not get it.  Then Betty hired you in 1968.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: They had gone through three other girls.  By this point she was a little bit older, she had been through a lot.  This time they did not take an audition.  It was strictly a reading in the office.  By the time we got to Billy's audition they were taping.  [Bill gestures “no”].  You didn’t tape your audition?
Bill Hayes:  I did a scene for Betty and Wes and Bill Bell and the casting person.  It was with Regina Gleason (ex-Kitty on DAYS).  It was down to Jed Allan [future Don on DAYS] and me.  They said, “Stand on that set, turn, and let the camera look at you.” 

Joy Jacobs: Did you sing at all for your audition?
Bill Hayes:  No.  But it was between me and Jed.  They chose me, and said to Jed, “We like you, we will have a character for you soon.”  And they did.  But I did not do a tape for the audition.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  I never did a taped audition either.  Lucky for us.  I never would have gotten a job.  I auditioned for PEYTON PLACE and didn’t get it.

Joy Jacobs: How did you feel when you got the rejections? I know as an actor you have them...
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  I consistently felt like I was failure.  I had been working since I was four-year-old.  I had never had a contract.  In 1962 I did nearly every show ABC was filming at Warner Brothers.  I did CHEYENNE, I did BRONCO, I did 77 SUNSET STRIP, I did SURFSIDE SIX.  I was replacing their contract actresses, who would have a heavy show, and then after two days they’d look at their daily rushes and say, “It’s no good, we have to get someone who can act it.”  So I replaced people.  But I wasn’t blonde, I wasn’t much of anything except considered a serious actress.  I was discovered by one of the directors, who was a great ladies man, a British actor, who was beginning to direct.  I read for him, he loved me.  He made a big fuss over me and directed a show around me. 

We Love Soaps: Which show?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: It was an episode of SURFSIDE SIX, during which I played an ugly person, who turned into a butterfly and pretty, and then went back to the swamps and became ugly again.  It was a sweet little storyline.  That was nice but they never ever offered me a contract.  I didn’t look a bit like Connie Stevens.  I was sorry that didn’t go forward.  I was sorry I was never under contract at THE YOUNG MARRIEDS.  I worked a lot, but I was never under contract.  So when I got to try out again for DAYS, and got the job, then got the contract, lousy as it was, I felt like I was on top of the world.  I felt I achieved something. 

We Love Soaps: Tell me about Frances Reid.
Bill Hayes: Superb actress.  Incredible.  We had her for a long time.  She was very enjoyable, funny, experienced, hard working.  It was Frances who helped create a family atmosphere around the cast and crew.
Susan Seaforth Hayes: She took it seriously and she wanted to be in charge of the family.  She had opinions, she always had opinions.  Rarely would she stifle them. 

Joy Jacobs: Was she like her character Alice Horton? Was she like a matriarch to all of you?
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  Some treated her that way.  Some liked that relationship with her.  Not all. 
Bill Hayes: She was not quite like Alice.  She was a very fast thinker.  She was ahead of other people often, quicker than Alice.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  She was not long suffering.
Bill Hayes:  I think she had those Alice feelings inside of her, but she ran right along.  She would come up and say, “You’re the head writer? Well, here is what is wrong...” She would tell you in very direct ways.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  She wasn’t always right but she always had an opinion. 
Bill Hayes: She would say, “You’re doing the costumes, here is what wrong.  You’re doing the music, here is how it should be.”  She was very bright.  A lot of times she was right.
Susan Seaforth Hayes:  She was experienced, she was taking courses at UCLA on Anthropology.  She was traveling around the world.  There was more to her than doughnuts.  The doughnuts!

Susan Seaforth Hayes: Here is the deal with the doughnuts.  When I came on the show, Denise Alexander’s character Susan was the good girl, and Julie was the bad girl.  To underline the goodness of Susan Martin, she made doughnuts.  Denise Alexander was a brilliant woman.  She had been an actress all her life, as I had.  She was a strong mother.  [Pause] She hated them doughnuts.  It was the doughnuts that drove Denise off the show.  She had an offer to go somewhere else [GH] and she said, “They haven’t asked me to fry a doughnut since I’ve been there! I’m playing a doctor, I’m out of the doughnut business.”  So the doughnut crown rolled on to Frances.  But if you go back far enough, way back to the '60s, it belonged to Susan Martin.  They were the epitome of home, sweetie pie in the kitchen, sustenance, and love, deep-fried.  At Frances’ wake in the commissary, there were plates of doughnuts at every table. 

We Love Soaps: Would she have approved of that?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: I’m sure she would have laughed.

We Love Soaps: Had she ever actually baked a doughnut?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: God no!  She was a good cook when she chose to be though.

We Love Soaps: She had been politically active during the McCarthy Era.  She had refused to testify?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Yes, and she had friends go down because of those years.
Bill Hayes: She was livid about McCarthy until her final years. “What a bad man.”
Susan Seaforth Hayes: She was entirely a liberal.  She would tell you how to vote if you asked.  And I would ask her.  She was always politically informed, and sharp as a razor.

We Love Soaps: When was the last time you saw her?
Susan Seaforth Hayes: At the last show she did in 2007.  It was terrible to see her frail, to see her not able to sit up straight.
Bill Hayes: She had two or three strokes and they destroyed one side, so she had a tilt.  In her final year it was very hard for her to work. 
Susan Seaforth Hayes: Although she loved being there.  And she loved the attention.  She deserved the attention.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please press here for Part Four in which Susan Seaforth Hayes reflects on her behavior on the set of DAYS, and regrets in her career.  Until then please spend a visit with the Hayes's by pressing here.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York.   He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve".

3 comments:

  1. These interviews are great. It is wonderful to read about my favorite soap opera couple of all time. We Love Soaps is filling a great need for daily news about the soaps in. very up to date ways. I look forward to my daily "read"

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  2. I stopped watching DAYS regularly the day Doug & Julie were first sent packing in the '80s. Nowadays, I only watch it when I know they're going to be on. I love the Hayes' and I love We Love Soaps for giving veteran stars the respect their own shows don't!

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  3. I love reading about the characters and the history of Days. I'm enjoying reading about Susan and Bill's recollections of those days.

    So informative about the way it was behind the scenes. The stuff that usually gets filtered out so we get a rosy picture. We know its work, its nice to know that they've come through all the rough times and still have happy memories.

    Can't wait for more.

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