Susan Seaforth Hayes

My life in show business began at age four. I wasn't seeking a moppet's career, and neither was my mother, Elizabeth Harrower. As a lifelong actress, she detested stage-mothers. Nevertheless I took the stage through the enterprise of a family friend who was secretary to Sol Hurok, a famous impresarios in Los Angeles. Madame Butterfly was to be performed for the first time since World War II by the New York Metropolitan Opera. They toured in those days. With my long ash-blond curls, I was the right size to play the little Eurasian child of the soprano. Also I could supply my own kimono, thanks to the loving support of our Japanese gardener's family. I remember walkng on the stage of the historic Shrine Auditorium, taking a solo bow and hearing the huge glorious voice of Eleanor Steber, the American diva playing Cio Cio San. Evidently I was poised enough to repeat the role at the Hollywood Bowl with Dorothy Kirsten later that same year (1948). The beautiful music of grand opera was my introduction to theater, and I have adored opera ever since. Truly, Billy and I have been season ticket holders at LA Opera for forty years. We hum Mozart in intimate moments and had Puccini played as the overture to our wedding in 1974.

As a child actress, I worked in episodic TV and in the theater: several plays at the Pasadena Playhouse, and the historic Pilgrimage Play with my mother at what is now the John Anson Ford Theatre, opposite the Hollywood Bowl. Most notably, I co-starred with Billie Burke for a few years in a bit of comedy called Mother Was a Bachelor. Perhaps you remember her as Glinda the Good in the 1939 Wizard of OZ? She was also the widow of Florenz Ziegfeld. Really, I don't expect any of you to have heard of him, but in the 20s he created The Ziegfeld Follies and was Broadway's most iconic producer. Stage jobs and radio, film and TV, Bonanaza, Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, Cheyenne, Death Valley Days; these were my stepping stones. I toted a gun through all the popular westerns and crime shows going. After my marriage, I was cast with my husband in musicals and a raft of delicious plays including Forty-Second Street, the Two of Us, Oliver, Mame, Follies, Love Letters and, best of all, Gypsy.

Who would have guessed I would spend so much of my life doing soaps? Daytime drama! The opera of mid-day emotions! My early credits transitioned from theater to live television—Hallmark Hall of Fame, NBC Matinee Theatre—to tape television—Day in Court, Divorce Court, Juvenile Court, etc. The very studio we shoot Days of our Lives in I worked in fifty years ago with Sarah Churchill! Sarah was the daughter of Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill. I must tell you, there have been few improvements to the NBC Studio dressing rooms since then. Matinee Theatre was on the air to sell color TV sets to people shopping in the middle of the day. I did many of their shows after that, all original dramas, each an hour long, broadcast live at noon, eastern standard time.

The first soap I worked on was General Hospital. I played a fair-haired teenager who tried to seduce the leading man at the beach one summer and wound up in the hospital with a terrible sunburn. Tragic, eh? Also at ABC, I did a couple years on The Young Marrieds, last of the black and white soaps. Peggy MacKay was a “young married” on that show. I was an artist's model-fashion model. The budget was so small I had to wear my own wardrobe, such as it was. Running short of changes, I wound up modeling my own terrycloth robe towards the end of the run. Then came Days of our Lives, a brilliant bright spot in my life, playing the great role of Julie Olsen Banning Anderson Williams (she married a lot in those days). I met Bill Hayes, fell in love, married off and then on screen. Bliss. A change of regime at Corday Productions, and Doug and Julie departed Salem. At CBS, Bill Bell, who created the Doug and Julie story, hired me to play Joanna Manning on The Young and the Restless. For three enjoyable years, I was part of that award-winning cast, then returned to Days sans Doug (a plot point that was never explained to the audience or us). I turned up to do a few episodes in the fading twilight of Sunset Beach, as a district attorney, a part originally written for a man. Also one bright episode of The Bold and the Beautiful (where I was greeted warmly by Bill Bell again), and finally back to Days.

Doing all those thousands of episodes I had a marvelous time. Being an actress who is warmly received by millions of people who know her name is a rare treat for a performer. Most actresses have shorter runs than I have had and, sadly, many slip into oblivion with their dreams unfulfilled. I've been lucky, happy and hopefully entertaining for a sweet span of years. I love the idea of a different show five days a week, spinning a story with characters the audience is invested in. And, if you are endearing…you endure.

After a regime change of writers and producers in 2015, Doug and Julie are off the cruise ship circuit and returning to their Salem roots. Hooray, I say. Hooray! We will be keeping in touch more frequently with all the characters we love. Check out our Twitter account (@DaysHayes) for Doug and Julie sightings.

As Days celebrates fifty years on the air, I find I am the performer who has been there the longest. Three Emmy nominations for Best Actress in daytime and the co-author of two books is a bit to be proud of, but my greatest accomplishment is my happy marriage of forty years! Bill Hayes and I are most famous for falling in and staying in love. Fate made a perfect casting choice. There is no career triumph to match loving and being loved in return. It's all the proof of heaven we need.


Bill Hayes


My name really is Bill Hayes. Well, William Foster Hayes III. Since my dad was William Foster Hayes II and his father William Foster Hayes I, I've been WFHIII all my life. And while I'm at it I might as well add that I have a son William Foster Hayes IV who has a son William Foster Hayes V. How long this will go on, of course, remains to be seen.

My mother's maiden name was Betty Mitchell, or maybe I should give her equal billing and designate her Betty Mitchell I. My loving, supportive, constantly-giving parents are both gone now but they left an indelible mark in this world.

I was born in Harvey, Illinois, where I attended Whittier Grade School and Thornton Township High School. The Pearl Harbor attack (December 7, 1941) occurred during my senior year in high school.

WWII, COLLEGE, NAVY (1942-1947)

In March, 1943, while a freshman at DePauw University, I enlisted in the Navy Air Corp, received my "Greetings" letter on my eighteenth birthday (June 5, 1943) ordering me to report for active duty on July 1st. And for the next 27 months I trained to be a fighter pilot: single engine, aerobatics, tail-first landings. Stationed at Greencastle, IN, Wooster, OH, Iowa City, IA, Ottumwa, IA, and Pensacola, FL, flew N2S Stearmans and SNJ Texans.

I was two weeks from being a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Air Corp, scheduled to fly an F8F off a carrier, when World War II ended. Given the choice of staying with the Navy permanently or getting out immediately, I opted for civilian life. My memories of living through wartime are still stark and it saddens me that each generation has to learn for itself that there's no glory in war, only horror. For winners and losers alike. There's got to be a better way.

From Pensacola to Great Lakes, Illinois, I went - on a creaky old train - where I was officially separated from the United States Navy in October, 1945. After five weeks of hitch-hiking around the MidWest to celebrate with my buddies who were also coming home, I returned to complete my Bachelor of Arts requirements at DePauw. Got my degree in June, 1947, majoring in Music and English.

My older brother George left the Service at the same time. He'd been an Army Air Corp pilot, flying B-29s in the Pacific Theatre. And, by the time my younger brother Phil was old enough to enlist, the war against Germany and Japan was over.

I spent my last semester at DePauw living in quarters built specifically for married students, for on a snowy day in February, 1947, I had married a pretty young girl I'd known in high school, Mary Hobbs by name. Mary and I cap-and-gowned together at DePauw and then started out into adult life together. No money, no jobs, merely boundless youth and optimism for the future.


I had no idea that a living could be made by singing and acting. My dad, who sold World Book and Childcraft and then went on to manage and train others in the art and business of selling books, was with the same company for 41 years. What Dad did for fun in his off-time was sing and act: in community theatre, for the Harvey Kiwanis or Elks, in men's glee clubs in Downtown Chicago, like that. I expected to have to find a job selling or digging something to pay for food and rent, and then for fun in my spare time I could perform wherever the opportunity presented itself.

I had sung all my life in choirs and glee clubs and barbershop quartets, played fiddle well enough in high school to sit 4th chair in the 1st violin section, had sung with Dave Simpson's dance band The Thorntoneers, acted in school plays and musicals, had even acted in a couple plays with my dad. In You Can't take It With You, for instance, he portrayed Grampa Vanderhof and I did Donald the butler. So I had already felt the high that comes from entertaining. But the only times I ever got money for it was when the dance band got paid and we'd split the take (average $1.50 for each musician).


That summer of 1947, my young brother Phil - at age 18 - somehow knew enough about commercial show business to write the Stage Manager of the National Touring Company of Carousel and request an audition. At my advanced age of 22 I didn't know to do that, but Phil did. A penny post card arrived for him from Jerry Whyte, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Production Stage Manager, telling Phil to come to the stage door of the Shubert Theatre in Chicago at 2:00pm on Tuesday, prepared to sing a song, for which an accompanist would be provided. Though Phil was quite elated, he had a problem. On that Tuesday my little brother had a severe strep throat, could not croak out a sound let alone sing a song, and he was in bed with the sweats, laryngitis and a very high fever.

In one of those quick-action moments that change a person's life, I took that card, scratched "Phil" off and wrote in "Bill," grabbed a piece of my dad's music off the piano, raced five blocks to the Illinois Central and caught a train into the city. In the dark alley alongside the Shubert Theatre, amid the splendor of cigarette butts, blowing candy wrappers and empty bottles, I located the stage door, slipped inside and followed the appropriate sounds to the side of the stage. I could see a tired accompanist hunched over an upright piano, I could smell grease paint and powder. Stage Manager Andy Anderson squinted at my card, ushered me out to the center of the stage, announced "Bill Hayes!" to the black cavern beyond the footlights. I stood there. To me the stage manager said, "Hand your music to the pianist, Bill, and stand back there next to the work-light."

Arpeggio. The accompanist led me quickly through "I Love Life." I cracked on the high note, finished the song with a red face, stood there feeling strangely naked. A voice from somewhere out front said, "Do you know Make Believe'?" I said, "Sort of. Not really." The accompanist handed me the music and gestured me back into the light. Arpeggio. Holding the music, and suddenly tight in the neck and shoulders, I sang "Make Believe." The voice said, "How tall are you?" "Five nine," I replied. A second voice said, "He can fit Johnny Henson's costumes." Voice One said, "Come over to the side of the stage, please."

At the side of the stage I met Voice One, who was Production Stage Manager Jerry Whyte. Jerry smiled and said, "Okay, Hayes. You'll replace Johnny Henson who's leaving the show Sunday. Come here every performance for the rest of the week, starting tonight, watch from the wings and learn his lines and what he does. Here's the music; memorize the second tenor part. You'll go in next Monday night." I stood there. He went on, "The pay is seventy bucks a week. Okay?" I smiled, nodded, took my music, floated out the stage door into that sooty, sweltering, windy alley, smirked my way back to the Randolph Street Station, and wafted home on a magic-carpet train.

That one decision changed my life forever. I was in (pause for effect) SHOW BUSINESS!

The seventy bucks a week sounded like heaven to me. My first three jobs (cashier in the high school cafeteria, Western Union bicycle-delivery boy, and stock-boy/salesman for Marx Toggery, Harvey's main street haberdashery) had all paid a grand 25 cents an hour, which came to $10 a week, $12.50 if I worked six days. My three-month summer job as Crew Dispatcher for the Indiana Harbor Belt Rail Road had paid $50 a week. And my stint in the Navy had paid $50 a month, upped to $75 when we started flying. Here I was being asked to get my kicks - in a show, on stage, in a commercial theatre - and was going to be paid to do it. What could be better than that?

Yessir, changed my life forever. I was now a professional performer. Been one ever since, and I'm proud of the fact that I've never had to go out and get a real job.


Carousel had opened in 1945, played two sensational seasons on Broadway, and now was starting its long and highly successful national tour in Chicago. Many of the original cast were still in it, Jean Casto playing "Mrs. Mullin," Eric Mattson doing "Enoch Snow," Jay Velie playing the blue-haired "Heavenly Friend," others. Henry Michel had replaced John Raitt as "Billy Bigelow," Iva Withers was now playing "Julie," Ann Crowley "Carrie Pipperidge," Mario DeLaval "Jigger," Jane McGowan "Nettie," Betta Striegler "Louise."

I had seen barely a handful of musicals in commercial theatres, so I was not really prepared for the power of Carousel to move people. What a play! What words! What music! Carousel is the best melding of lyrics, music, plot, character, feelings and social depth that's ever been created for the musical stage, and I couldn't stop watching. Though I'd only been asked to watch Johnny Henson's movements, I was so enthralled by the music and words I couldn't leave my spot in the wings.

I memorized all the second tenor parts on the train home that night and then went on to study my lines. What were the first lines I was to shout in my professional theatrical career? Being "1st Man" in Act I, Scene 3, I amazed the weary commuters with the immortal, "Nettie!," "Got any of them dough-nuts fried yet?," "Are y'cookin' the ice cream?" and "Where's Nettie?" They looked at me like I was crazy, but I was riding too high to be brought down by wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

Johnny Henson was generous to me with his time, showed me where to stand in the wings, when to enter, where to be in the various numbers, what costumes to wear and when to change, etc. Richmond Paige told me what makeup to buy (and where) and taught me how to apply it. Our Musical Conductor Joseph Littau found me on Monday night before the curtain went up and said, "Don't look directly at me, but watch me out of the side of your eye for all entrances and cutoffs. I will be very clear." Stage Manager Andy Anderson told me, "Happy show, Bill." And I was on!

Act I, Scene 1: Dressed in an ice cream suit, I sold prop cones in pantomime, no problem. Act I, Scene 3: I was a sailor, got my lines out, sang "June is Bustin' Our All Over," no problem. Marveled at tenor Eric Mattson's vocal ease with the difficult "When the Children Are Asleep." Then came "Blow High, Blow Low." I was doing just fine until - just before the hornpipe, with a specialty dance to be performed by Kenneth MacKenzie and Tanya Bechenova - I was standing onstage, trying to figure out where Johnny Henson had said I should be, when MacKenzie started running from offstage and made a spectacular flying leap to his usual landing spot onstage: right on top of ME. Oops! Picked himself up and proceeded to do his hornpipe, glaringat me sideways. He was steaming! Couldn't wait to get off stage after the number and find me. He berated me so loudly for being where I shouldn't have been, for not watching out for him, for twisting his ankle, for ruining his career as well as his health, etc., that Andy Anderson had to come over and shush him and lead him away. MacKenzie didn't speak to me the whole three months I was in the show.

Continuing with my first professional stage experience, I held my breath as Henry Michel sang through the incredible "Siloloquy," then I made the finale to Act I, no problem. Act II, Scene 1 begins with "This Was a Real Nice Clambake;" I'm still a sailor, lying down with my head on the tummy of the beautiful Grace Bruns. I can feel her breathe diaphragmatically as she sings her part, and look forward to doing that number again. I watch Iva Withers sing "What's the Use of Wond'rin'" from the side of the stage and realize what a wonderful singing actress she is. In Act II, Scene 2, I go onstage to watch "Billy Bigelow" die, then stumble offstage to watch Iva Withers cry as she listens to Jane McGowan sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." She cries every performance. And suddenly we're into the finale. I'm in my blue serge graduation suit, facing straight out into the audience, and as we go through the scene I become aware that I can see the front row of the audience and watch nearly the whole front row reach for their handkerchiefs and sit there and cry. As we sing the final chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone," there are tears in my eyes, too. And after the final curtain and bows, I just sit there stunned with emotion.

I remained in that stunned state as I hung up my costumes, took off my makeup, put on my street clothes, said goodnight to my new friends, walked over to the I.C. Station, rode south to Harvey, and ran home in the dark. Carousel is not only a visceral experience to see, it is even more-so to be in. I played 102 performances with that company, I've seen it several times, and in later years I played "Billy Bigelow" in five different productions. I has never failed to grab me, hold me, and truly thrill me. What geniuses were Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.


Very soon I learned that my soft-textured blending voice, which had served me so well in choirs and quartets, was not right for use in the legitimate theatre. My co-singers in Carousel explained to me that, since no microphones were used in theatrical productions, it was necessary to PROJECT to the back row. They were happy that I sang my harmony part with authority and that my pitch was good, but they said, "You've got to take some voice lessons and learn how to PROJECT."

At the same time I was thinking to myself, "Suppose I find that I don't like performing as my life's work, or suppose I can't make enough money doing it to support my pregnant wife and me, "Hmmm, I'd better get myself a little more education to fall back on."

As a World War II veteran I could take advantage of the G I Bill to pay for some post-graduate schooling. So, I took the North Shore up to Evanston, Illinois, and enrolled in the Music School at Northwestern University. And there I stayed until the spring of '49, taking graduate courses in the daytime, playing Carousel at night. Then, when the Carousel company completed its run at the Shubert and continued on its national tour, I remained in Chicago and worked towards my Master of Music Degree, majoring in Voice.

Needing to replace that substantial $70/wk income, I began to seek jobs here and there. I became Choir Director at my home church, the Federated Church of Harvey ($15/wk), sang Friday night services for Temple Beth Am on the south side of Chicago ($15/wk), sang twice a week on "Songs You Remember" on radio station WJJD in downtown Chicago ($9/show), sang "doo-wahs" in a jazz quintet (blending straight-tone) for the experimental new television series at WGN called "Homer Herk" ($20/wk), and sang for memorial services at the Cordt Funeral Home in Homewood, Illinois ($5/funeral). And every once in a while I got booked to do the tenor solos in an oratorio or cantata, which paid anywhere from $25 to $75 per performance.

From playing violin all those years I could read music well, so I was able to utilize all my train-commuting time to memorize art songs, practice music composition and choral arranging and study bibliographical research. I took a voice lesson from Prof. John Toms every day for eighteen months, concentrating on developing the ability to PROJECT to the back row.


On March 21, 1948, Palm Sunday, Mary went into labor with our first child. Mid way through the process, while she was doing her thing in the labor room, I had to excuse myself and go up to Schurz High School to sing the Dubois Seven Last Words of Christ ($25). And afterwards, still in my white tie and tails, I whipped back to the hospital to behold my first born, a beautiful new girl baby we named Carrie. Because of my formal costume the nurses joked, "What happened? Did you two just get married today?" In 1948 that was a joke, but today nobody would have thought of it. Times change.

It probably was no coincidence that we named our daughter Carrie and one of the leading roles in Carousel was named Carrie. Anyway I was fascinated at having a child of my own and soon discovered that the positives of parenting far outweigh the negatives. Feeding, burping, changing diapers (and that was before disposables), rocking to sleep, crooning lullabies - all that's a privilege. And when that baby smiles and coos and one day even laughs you're more than compensated for all your time and trouble.

Fast-forward twelve months. Carrie is now a year old. I've presented my graduate recital and am wrapping up all my courses at Northwestern. One of my original compositions has been played by an oboist friend in her graduate recital. I've appeared in some student opera presentations, and even sung four lines in a professional production of La Traviata in Chicago ($25). I had traveled to Burlington, Iowa, to sing the tenor solos in Handel's Messiah ($75). And one night I got a phone call which turned out to be another life-changing moment...


Grace Bruns, the girl on whose tummy I had rested my head while singing "This Was a Real Nice Clambake" in Carousel, had married Ray Dorian-Tetrault, a tall extremely handsome dancer in the show. Ray was now a featured dancer with a new Olsen and Johnson show just being put together in Chicago, a show called Funzapoppin, in the style of their mega-hit Hellzapoppin, but BIGGER.

Grace and Ray said, "Olsen and Johnson are looking for a lead singer. They're auditioning tomorrow. Why don't you go? If you get the job, ask for $350 a week." I hung up and looked at Mary in disbelief. $350 a week? Nobody would pay anybody that kind of money. On second thought, if they offered half that much that would still be twice as much as I'm making running all over the city now. We looked at each other and began nodding. It couldn't hurt to audition.

I took the I. C. into Chicago and the EL way out west to some dingy 3rd floor rehearsal room with windows so streaked with soot you couldn't see through them. Walked in, music in hand. Sketch-rehearsal came to a halt. Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson quickly walked over to me, said, "Are you our singer?" I said, "Yep." They took my music, handed it to their pianist, grabbed chairs and sat down, gazing at me expectantly. I sang "Without a Song." They looked at each other and nodded. Ole Olsen put his chair aside and went back to work on the sketch. Chic Johnson shook my hand and said, "Yep, you're our singer. Can you start today?"

My eyes got big. Chic said, "Okay, tomorrow. Rehearsal pay $75 a week. We open in two weeks at the Chicago Stadium. Then you'll get $200 a week. How's that sound?" I ventured, "Could you make it $350?" Chic broke into a wide grin and said, "Oh, you like to play hard ball, eh? Okay, $250 and you've got a deal." Held out his hand. I took it. He said, "Tomorrow, ten o'clock, right here," turned and went back to the sketch rehearsal. Grace's husband Ray patted me on the back and said, in his slightly French-Canadian accent, "Wait 'til I tell Grace!" And suddenly I had taken another show-business leap. Rode all the way back home on those trains, shaking my head and wondering, "O Lord, what have I done?"


Fortunately I was done with my classwork at Northwestern, but I did have certain obligations and responsibilities I would have to honor and work around. When I arrived for rehearsal the next day I explained that I did radio shows on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (they said, "Good! You can promote our show!"), and that I did rehearse and perform "Homer Herk" on TV Wednesday afternoons (they said, "You'll be doing BIG television with us!"), and that I couldn't stay late on Fridays because of my choir practice at Temple Beth Am (they said, "We'll give the choir tickets!"). Nothing fazed them.

Funzapoppin was an old-fashioned vaudeville/burlesque-style show. All the very broad comedy centered around Chic and Ole, using endless props and funny costumes, stooges, outrageous puns, crossovers and hilarious sight gags. No profanity or smut, just silly, home-spun Midwestern humor. The female lead was Chic's daughter June Johnson. The craziest stooge was Ole's son J. C. Olsen. Marty May, husband of June Johnson, did his Palace Theatre act and worked in all the sketches. Stooges included six Eastern European little people (adult midgets, former acrobats), Nina Varela (former opera singer turned baggy-pants comic), Billy Kaye and Barone Hopper (musical hall performers from Australia), Maurice Millard (female impersonator from South Africa), two second-bananas from burlesque, and six stuntmen from Hollywood doing the big fight sequence in the Western Sketch. Also there were several circus clowns, vaudeville acts (Mata & Hari, Nirska, Gloria Gilbert, one-legged tap-dancer Jack Robbins), "flash acts" (Step Brothers, Clark Brothers). Mayhem! But all planned and timed to perfection.

And there was music, lots of it. On that first day of rehearsal they asked me to sing for Choreographer Catherine Littlefield. Musical Director Jack Pfeiffer sat down at the piano and I sang "It's a Big, Wide, Wonderful World." Catherine loved it so much she immediately began creating a number around it. June Johnson and I would be newlyweds taking our honeymoon around the world, and she would set dances from various countries where we stopped: a can-can for Paris, a tarantella for Rome, a hula for Hawaii (the dancers all interpreted while I sang "A Little Brown Gal in a Little Grass Skirt in a Little Grass Shack in Hawaii"), and a sinuous pas de deux by Ray Dorian and Georgine Darcy for Bali. Catherine also quickly put me into another number she'd already started: I sang a chorus of "Brazil" and then the dancers did a very exotic dance to "Similau." They gave me one more solo: "I'd Like to Be a Sitter for a Baby Like You," followed by a soft shoe danced by the entire company. Everyone there could do a soft shoe, but I couldn't, so I quickly had to learn the steps.

We did 23 performances of Funzapoppin at the Chicago Stadium, for which I was given a $500 check. Mary and I were stunned to have that much money in one lump. Olsen and Johnson then asked me to continue working for them as they went on tour: Indianapolis Colosseum, Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, and back to New York City to do an NBC series on the new medium of television.

I received my Master of Music Degree from Northwestern, bid farewell to all my jobs in the Chicago area, packed suitcases, and off the three of us went: my pregnant wife Mary, my one-year-old daughter Carrie, and me, a neophyte singer no longer to be billed as "William." Surrounded by the super-relaxed atmosphere of Olsen and Johnson, I became "Bill Hayes."


Television remained experimental until September 21st, 1948, the night the series called Texaco Star Theatre began, starring Milton Berle. That night there were very few television sets in the whole country. But the show was such a humungous success that all the sets on all the shelves in all the towns in America were bought up the next day. Cute little 10-inch Philcos and Emersons - pfft! All gone!

Everyone suddenly was glued to a television set. People would turn their set on at home and sit there watching a snowy test pattern, waiting for some show to come on. Any show. Curious pedestrians, standing outside shop-windows and watching those crazy little boxes, were sometimes rewarded by seeing a wrestling match or an early, faded John Wayne movie.

But the best of the best was Milton Berle, "Mr. Television," who cavorted with manic energy through an hour every Tuesday night. And what do you know? When Uncle Miltie took his 13-week hiatus in the summer of 1949, he was replaced by Olsen and Johnson and their troop of stooges, vaudeville acts, clowns, singers, dancers - and ME.

Buick, sponsor of our series, was touting their powerful new automotive engine called "The Fire-Ball." So, Olsen and Johnson named their show The Fire-Ball Fun-For-All. We performed on Tuesday nights, from 8:00 to 9:00pm. I know it's hard for people today to conceptualize, but that was LIVE television. Tape had not been invented yet, did not come into commercial use until about 1957.

When a show is LIVE, things happen that are not supposed to happen. And audiences were not only turned on just by seeing television, they were doubly turned on by the anything-can-happen excitement of LIVE TV.

Shows today have writers, producers, directors, set-designers, lighting specialists, prop men, costume designers and wardrobe assistants, make-up artists and hair designers, production assistants, experienced camera men, sound personnel with huge banks of mixing equipment, and on and on. Then we had none of the above. Olsen and Johnson did it all. They wrote the show (we had no scripts), directed the sketches, rented theatrical sets, brought costumes and props from their own huge barn/warehouse up in Carmel, NY, determined what music was to be done.

Since there were no TV studios at that time, we performed the show as a theatrical variety show and the huge TV cameras caught as much of it as they could. Cameras in 1949 were not mobile, did not have zoom capability, were really just barely out of the experimental phase. In fact, in order for our cameras to work at all they had to be turned on a full 60 minutes before use and focused endlessly on test patterns or the resultant images would be wavy if not totally unrecognizable.

The Fire-Ball Fun-For-All broadcasts emanated from The International Theatre at Columbus Circle (59th St. at 8th Ave.) in New York City. One entire section of seats was removed to make room for the big NBC staff orchestra and our Conductor Al Goodman. More seats were removed to create space for the cameras and to allow carpenters to build and enclose a control booth. Lyn Duddy wrote special material, Paul Van Loan wrote orchestrations, Dave Gould choreographed the first four shows, Donn Arden the next four.

On Tuesday night, June 28th, 1949, I made my national television debut (on camera this time!), doing Olsen and Johnson stooge-bits and singing (in a 1908 Buick) "Shine On, Harvest Moon" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to June Johnson. Staging Director Ezra Stone and Camera Director Frank Burns were wide-eyed if not frantic trying to figure out how to stage and shoot for those three immobile cameras, two in the pit, one in the balcony. We rehearsed 9:00am to 9:00pm every day, which meant we sat around a lot. Television was so new there was no union to demand five-minute breaks and fewer hours of sitting around and wasting time. I came to appreciate unions for the first time.

I worked mostly with June Johnson in the musical numbers, sang mostly old-old favorites: "We're Having a Heat Wave," "In the Good Old Summer Time," "By the Sea," "Let's Get Away from It All," "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," "We're Loyal to You, Illinois," "How About You?," "Always," "Big, Wide, Wonderful World," "Little Brown Gal." In a big, long, special production of "Penthouse Serenade" I sang to the camera and to June's sister Chickee Johnson.

I was paid $75 a week. We did eight of our contracted 13 shows and then Milton Berle returned temporarily while we went back on the road. When we came back to do our final five, we were given a new musical conductor (Charley Sanford), a new vocal/choral/special material writer/arranger (Clay Warnick), and a new orchestrator (Irwin Kostal). These shows were done in September and October of 1949. Eddie Cline (former Keystone Kop) was now our staging director and Bob Sidney the choreographer.

Our closing theme song had been "Tuesday's the Night for a Party!," written I think by Ole Olsen. When we came back to do our last five episodes the night had been switched to Thursdays, so our closing theme suddenly became "Thursday's the Night for a Party!" We began to use more acts: Frank Cook, The Dancing Dunhills, Pallenberg and His Bears, Mata and Hari, Betty Bruce, Hal LeRoy. I sang "Cruising Down the River," "School Days," "You've Come a Long Way from St. Louis," "My Wonderful One," "Love Nest," "I Was Made for New York," "Ain't She Sweet," "Boston," "Basin Street Blues," "Darling, Not Without You," and "Manhattan Symphony."


The final show of this series occurred on October 27, 1949. Mary, having become toxic during this pregnancy, was scheduled to have her labor induced the next day. Aware of this impending nativity, Chic Johnson - onstage, during the show - gave me a wild grin and said, "Hope it's a boy!" Of course, that was before prospective parents were capable of knowing what gender their babies were going to be. Immediately following the show Mary and I rushed up to Women's Hospital in Manhattan, she drank her glass of cod-liver oil and the next day - Friday, October 28th, 1949---gave birth to our first son. Oh, what excitement!

Not only was I intent on continuing the line of William Foster Hayeses, but you've got to remember all those times I stood at the side of the stage in Carousel and thrilled to those words Billy Bigelow sings in his "Soliloquy:"

"My boy Bill, I will see that he's named after me, I will! My boy Bill, he'll be tall and as tough as a tree, will Bill!"

Billy was another of my dreams come true. Though we really named him after the three previous William Foster Hayeses, Carousel just added a little gold dust to his star.

Now having two children to care for, Mary and I looked for a small house we could buy. We found one in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Long Island (price: $9,500), and moved from our furnished "railroad apartment" on Washington Square in Manhattan. As a "new baby" gift, Chic Johnson presented us with a prop from Hellzapoppin, an oversized white wicker perambulator/crib which had been used in a sketch where a bratty baby was played by Andy Ratousheff, one of the little people. So at least Billy had a place to sleep.


Having borrowed the down-payment from my dad and Mary's dad (Harley Hobbs), we now were the proud owners of a six-room two-story attached house. But our furniture, collected in Indiana and Illinois over the past two and a half years was sparse. When it arrived we spread it around the house: sofa, easy chair and upright piano in the living room, dining table and four chairs in the dining room, the one chest of drawers in our bedroom, and the baby-bed in Carrie's room. For weeks Mary and I slept on the floor.

We scrounged the neighborhood for orange crates. Those things saved our hides. All the rest of our furniture was orange crates. We used them for book cases, music cases, kitchen pantry, shelves for dishes, diaper-holders, night (bedside) tables, dressers for Carrie and Billy, writing table, etc.

To get to work I walked six blocks, took a bus and then rode the subway into Manhattan. That commuting time may have been a drag for most people, but it was really when I memorized my songs and lines. Mary, of course, had all the challenges of being a new parent and housewife. We were several blocks from the grocery store, so she wrestled the HUGE crib down the front steps, put Billy and Carrie both in the crib and push-pulled it downhill to the store. After making her few purchases, she put the groceries in the crib along with the babies and grunted her way back up to the house. Wedge the wheels, carry the babies up one at a time, then the groceries, and finally muscle that HUGE prop/crib back up the steps.

Our next-door neighbor was a man who made fir coats. At home. And he worked hard! All day and much of the night you could hear his sewing machine chugging away: arrrrrrrrrrrarrrrrrrrrrarrrrrrr, arrrrrrrarrrrrrrrrarrrrrrrrr. But the area was a bedroom community for working people, not much of a neighborhood. In the year and a half we lived there we didn't get to know people. Outside of the two infants, Mary was alone all day all week. I at least came in contact with the other Olsen and Johnson cast members.


During the last week of the Olsen and Johnson television series, I was talking to our scenic designer Freddy Fox and costume designer Paul Dupont. They told me about a man named Max Liebman and said, "He's looking for you. Give him a call." "Who is he?," I inquired. "Producer of The Admiral Broadway Review. He's currently casting and putting together what could be the biggest variety series ever to be created for television. Call him and go get the job."

I took the number, gave Max Liebman a call, said, "I understand you're looking for me." He said, "Yes, I've seen you on the Olsen and Johnson series, and I would like for you to come audition for me. Please call me again the first week of February." Uhh, the first week in February? That was three and a half months away! I said, "I'll call."

The three and a half months dragged by. With Olsen and Johnson, I played a vaudeville date at the Strand Theatre in New York City (11 days in November) and a strange booking at the Copa City Night Club in Miami (20 nights in December) with our troop augmented by the addition of Stubby Kaye, Betty Reilly, The Salici Puppets and Mata and Hari. I auditioned for several entrepreneurs: Stanley Raeburn, Moss Hart, Anderson Lawler, Vinton Freedley, Doug Coudy, and the producing team Katzell-Gordon-Gordon-&-Dietz (twice). But nothing panned out. Had to borrow $25 a week from my dad to make mortgage payments for a while.

Finally February arrived, I called Max Liebman. He asked me to meet him at the Malin Studios on 52nd Street. On February 9th, 1950, I found Malin Studios, went upstairs to a room filled with cigar smoke and paper cups. Met Producer Max Liebman and his two writers Mel Tolkin and Lucille Kallen. Irwin Kostal, with whom I had worked on Olsen and Johnson, was also there, sitting at the piano.

Mr. Liebman greeted me warmly, asked me to sing a ballad for him. I sang a French-Canadian ballad called "Leetle Bateese." He said, "No, a ballad. You know, a pretty popular song, a standard." Though I had no music with me, Irv accompanied me as I sang "East of the Sun" slowly, out of tempo. Then Liebman said, "Fine. Another song, please." I sang "Without a Song." He put down his cigar and said, "And now a rhythm song, please." I sang "East of the Sun" in a swinging four. He nodded, said, "You sing well and I'd like for you to join us. We go into rehearsal next Monday. We'll work Monday through Friday 10:00am to 6:00pm and all day Saturday. The show will be on from 9:00 to 10:30 every Saturday night, the last hour and a half of what is to be called The Saturday Night Review. The first hour will be a Jack Carter Show coming from Chicago. We will run thirteen weeks, then take the summer off and begin again in the fall. I can pay you $150 a week. What do you say?" I gulped, smiled, nodded and said, "I'll be here." We shook hands and Max said, "Well, not here. By then we'll be in our new offices and rehearsal studios at 130 West 56th Street. You better come there."

I ran to the subway, tapped my feet all the way home on the subway and the bus, ran back to 86th Street in Jackson Heights. I had a thirteen week job on a new television series to be called Your Show of Shows!


Coming Appearances

Coming Soon!

Book Signings

Joseph Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY (7:00pm) - September 24, 2012

The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Memphis, TN (6:00pm) - September 27, 2012

Barnes & Noble at the Summit, Louisville, KY (6:30pm) - October 1, 2012

Left Bank Books (N. 10th Street), St. Louis, MO (7:00pm) - October 4, 2012

The Firefly Grill, Effingham, IL (11:00am) - October 5, 2012

Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN (2:00pm) - October 6, 2012


Like Sands Through the Hourglass
Like Sands Through the Hourglass

This is Bill Hayes CD
This is Bill Hayes CD

Fan Sites

Doug & Julie

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