For anyone who has ever become engrossed by soap operas, Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth are practically royalty. But their true behind-the-scenes tale is far better than any daytime drama.
In 1970, Hayes — an original member of Sid Caesar’s landmark program Your Show of Shows — joined the cast of Days of Our Lives as the ne’er-do-well ex-con, Doug Williams. There he met (and was immediately taken with) Seaforth, who played Julie — a star-crossed member of the series’ Horton clan.
Their on-screen pairing quickly became one of the hottest love stories on daytime TV. Then in 1974, in a wonderful case of life imitating art, the pair actually married. Now, almost four decades later, they remain one of Tinsel Town’s most committed couples. In recent years, these co-stars on-screen and off have also become co-authors of two amazing books.
Their first, Like Sands Through the Hourglass, takes its title from the familiar phrase in the opening title sequence of Days. This memoir of their lives and romance is touching, comical and informative, and it’s told with a buoyant “nothing-off-limits” frankness. Hayes and Seaforth alternate sections devoted to him, then her — often relating the same (or at least similar) events from their different points of view.
Readers are given – in juicy little increments — the rich recollections of two full lives that came together to become richer still. In addition to their absorbing love story (which is naturally central to the narrative), the book includes many anecdotes about the people they’ve known (including many of their Days co-stars) and the places they’ve been. One thing’s certain — after reading this, you will never look at daytime TV in quite the same way again!
Using this breezy kind of round-robin approach to tell their story, the couple share remembrances that are frequently uproarious but at times, touching to the point of tears. In a chapter titled “If Only,” the couple recall their former co-star Brenda Benet, who played Lee on Days. Benet seemed to have it all — gorgeous looks, a key role on a hit series, a young son with actor Bill Bixby. One weekend in 1981, the 6-year-old boy suddenly took ill and died of a throat infection, sending Brenda’s life into a tragic tailspin that ended when she took her own life a year later. Told with such raw honesty and emotion from two people who witnessed the actress’ final days from as closely as the next makeup chair over, both confess they are still shaken by her death.
But Like Sands Through the Hourglass appeals not just to soap enthusiasts. Theater devotees and those interested in classic television and the golden age of Broadway will also find plenty to relish. The book has plenty of tantalizing backstage stories involving some of the heaviest hitters of show business.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein hand-picked Hayes for the lead role in their new musical Me and Juliet in 1953, at the height of their glory as Broadway’s leading team of composers. Several years later, while rehearsing for a show in Dallas, he was asked to a poker party hosted by none other than Judy Garland, who was also appearing there. And Seaforth hilariously recalls sharing the stage with Garland’s Wizard of Oz co-star Billie Burke as a child actress when they toured in a production of Mother Was a Bachelor. Jerome Robbins also cast the girl as the first actress to play Jane, Wendy’s daughter, in Peter Panduring its original, pre-Broadway tryout. She relates how Mary Martin herself applied her makeup just before young Seaforth’s first appearance in the show.
Seaforth and Hayes’ second book is the recently released Trumpet. This novel is told in the third-person, augmented by transcripts of letters and private journal entries. Billed as “a fictional story played out against an actual historic backdrop,” the book is written in the fashion of classic prose from England’s Regency period.
The year is 1803, and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Trumpet dreams of following in the footsteps of her celebrated father, star of the Theatre Royal at Covent Garden. However, “life upon the wicked stage” was deeply frowned upon for a proper young lady. A sudden reversal in the family’s fortunes inspires her to pursue her dreams — societal consequences be damned! Her adventures that follow (some by choice, others by chance) cleverly reference many of the authors’ own real-life excursions and experiences. Like her creators, too, Elizabeth Trumpet meets and interacts with many of the notable figures of her day — among them, trend-setter extraordinaire George “Beau” Brummell; Joseph Grimaldi, one of history’s greatest funnymen; and other noted “theatricals” of the period, like Edmund Kean and Sarah Siddons. And when the ship she’s on makes an unplanned stop on the Isle of Elba, Lizzie even has an encounter with exiled emperor Napoleon Bonaparte himself.
If a character is mentioned in this well-researched work of fiction, it’s a good bet that he or she truly existed. Yet it’s our heroine’s love affairs that make Trumpet a real page-turner. Initially, her marriage to fellow actor Jack Faversham seems like the legendary romances that the two play out nightly on the stages of old London town, filled with drama and passion — but is it? Could Jack secretly be a viper in valiant vestments — one not above plying his considerable sexual charisma on anyone, regardless of gender, who he feels can help him gain advancement? Near-cinematic in scope, the action in Trumpet moves along fairly rapidly, with one enthralling and titillating exploit flowing seamlessly into the next; The authors present a first-rate portrait of a young woman very much of, and ahead of, her time.
Like Sands Through the Hourglass is published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Books (www.penguin.com). Trumpet is from Decadent Publishing (www.decadentpublishing.com). Both are available from Amazon.com or from the Hayes’ website (www.billandsusanhayes.com).