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R.I.P.: Bill Hayes Has Died

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Farah Galfond

There’s nice people and then there’s NICE NICE people. Bill Hayes was NICE NICE. He and Susan left a lasting impression on me for many years. They radiated kindness, love, & gratitude every time I was around them. My condolences go out to Susan and all those who loved him.

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I was dreaming about ATWT (which isn't that common for me) still being on and seeing Kathryn Hays performing a scene. When I woke up, I saw this news.

Bill and Susan had a love story that beat most that hit the big or small screen and took viewers along for the ride. Yet somehow, they managed to navigate this crazy balance for all this time. I don't know how they did it, but I'm glad they found each other and that they were willing to continue to be a part of the show even after being seen as past it by the show and network they'd helped define. It was still Doug and Julie, Julie and Doug, to the end...true love winning out in a brutal, cynical world, on and offcamera.

98 years is a triumph, but the biggest triumph of all may be that after Doug was seen as a part of the past, he not only returned, but was a cornerstone of DAYS, all the way to the end. 

I know there are some fans here who watched Bill for 50 years - even longer, given "Davy Crockett" and Your Show of Shows. My own time seeing him can't really begin to compare. Still, I have to thank Bill for being a bastion of everything that soaps should be - history, warmth, humor, and yes, a lot of drama - in an era that so often violently went against these instincts. It didn't matter what the show threw at Doug, even a serial killer or a demon - Bill made it real and made you care. And that is something that is almost impossible to replicate, no matter how graceful his work seemed. 

Thank you, Bill, and farewell.

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Here's the last written correspondence I received from Bill: His and Susan's 2021 Christmas card. It was always a treat to see Doug and Julie at the Horton Christmas each year, and the Christmas cards they sent added to the magic of the season, especially for this "Days" fan!

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Hayes, B., of Hayes &. Hayes [Doug Williams]. (1982 B.C.E.). A Tribute to Brenda Benet: A Memorial. Soap Opera Digest, 7(16), 132–133.


Is there ever a time when suicide is the answer? When pain surpasses its own threshold? When the seductive song of death is sweeter than the cacophony of life?

The chilling reply is "yes." Otherwise there would be no suicide. Not even a need for the word.

Suicide happens just often enough to remind us it is the solution for some. The final bleak option to dealing with one's overburden.

There is, of course, total disagreement on the moral aspect of suicide, with as many different points of view as there are religions, societies and philosophers. Some consign the perpetrator to hell's eternal fires: others respect the act as a glorification through self-sacrifice.

But everyone jolts together in sudden agreement at the loss of a loved one, the sympathetic hurt, the deprivation and the frustration as the realization that a life has been snuffed out too early.

Our lovely friend, Brenda Benet, apparently took her own life early last April. Of course, whenever it was it was early, too damned early. Brenda was the perfect actress: stunningly beautiful, talented and utterly capable of her craft, dedicated and responsible, and sensitive to the extreme.

And there's the rub -- SENSITIVE!

The best actresses are the most sensitive, you know. In order to permit audiences to see into the depths of their private emotions, to discover choice human truths, the good actresses forego protective covering.

There is no other way. Either you protect your soft center with a hard shell of inhibitions or you bare your soul and take your chances. There never has been a hard actress; that would be a contradiction of terms, an oxymoron. There may be loud actresses, demanding actresses, inexhaustible workers, picky, tasteless, even hateful actresses --but insensitive? No way!

And Brenda was an actress. I'm sure she was sensitive to the fact that she was admired, appreciated, loved; that she enjoyed close friendships with many, both men and women; that she was aware she was considered abundantly successful.

And yet those positive components of her life and career couldn't balance out on her scale of importance. The negative tray was just too heavily weighted.

Three years ago, when Brenda first came on "Days of our Lives," she still had hopes that her marriage could be saved. It could not. She watched the pieces come apart. She was not a backbiter or a griper, so she didn't talk about it. But Brenda and I worked together closely during her first two years on the show, and I say Brenda was deeply hurt by the dissolution of her relationship with her husband.

Wounded, yes, but not killed. After all, she still had the wondrous product of that marriage, her 6-year-old son, Christopher. Brenda's life had come to focus on Christopher. When she spoke of Christopher, when he came to spend the day with her at the studio, when she touched him, talked to him, smiled at him, it was obvious that Christopher was the consummation, the reality, the treasure of Brenda's life. And it was beautiful. Love like that is inspiring to all who experience it.

And then she lost him. With a jerking suddenness, he was dead and gone, and Brenda was embracing only his memory.

Was she shattered by this? She didn't outwardly betray such impact. Instead, she consoled her grieving friends. She soothingly explained how Christopher had known he was going to die, described the ways he had let her know this, even detailed how she herself had had premonitions that he would never reach his seventh birthday.

No grief, no hysterics, no anger, no tears. Enigmatically, that torturous day of Christopher's death seemed to be swept under the carpet of fate. I would have expected Brenda, the super-sensitive actress, to have been unable to control her emotions, let alone cover them.

In retrospect I wish she had screamed herself hoarse, torn the drapes, kicked and stomped and pounded herself to a frazzle, cried uncontrollably until exhaustion claimed her.

Because it is my opinion that she bottled up all those feelings of loss and unfairness of life, and the sadness and anger added perhaps a catalytic agent of guilt and "what if" and "why me?," and corked it up tight to put away in her pocket.

But such feelings don't just go away. You must express them, face them, deal with them and admit their presence, even if you don't understand their function, before time can work its healing magic.

I honestly think that Brenda -- for some reason -- didn't face her loss. And it caught up with her, blowing the cork off that bottle she had hidden away.

I believe that, had she accepted her grief and anger and allowed the tears to flow naturally, her eyes would have cleared so she could see all the reasons to live now. She would have now been able to open herself to the caress of love offered by friends on all sides. And she would not have abruptly deprived the world of her own special brand of love.

Many, many people loved Brenda. Not only her co-actors on "Days," and the producers and crews with whom she worked, but also her soap opera family across the land. Ever since the stunning news of her death was made public, people have been moved to write words of sympathy to Susan and me, to the producers, to other members of the cast. They've sent condolence cards. Masses have been celebrated. Poems and songs and eulogies have been composed. It's been wonderful. Wonderful, and terribly sad.

We all wish we'd been in the right place at the right time to prevent her suicide. We're sorry for the anguish she felt. We wish we'd sensed something that day, or the day before, and said, "Brenda, I love you and don't want you to leave. Please, don't do this."

But today each of us is older and sadder and, we hope, wiser. Perhaps we'll all be more inclined to say, "I love you and need you" to each other more spontaneously, not waiting for the look of panic that signals depression to the point of desperation. I, for one, hope so.

We loved you, Brenda, and we'll miss you.

- Bill Hayes, of Hayes and Hayes

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I gasped. My mind immediately went to Susan.


He's been around forever growing up. In terms of days, I can't help, but think of him singing...after years of hearing him mentioned before ever seeing him on DAYS...loring Hope out of Princess Gina. One of my favorite DAYS scene and I was sold on Bill as a character and their clear connection to each other


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