All long-time "Days" fans know Dave. Dave was Salem's
friendly maitre'd and waiter at many of its restaurants throughout the 1970s,
1980s, 1990s and 2000s. From Doug's Place, to Wings, to Tuscany, you could
always count on Dave to greet you at the door and seat you at your favorite
spot. Don Frabotta, who played Dave from 1974-1993 and again from 2000-2004,
also ranks 13th all-time on "Days" longest-tenure list, with over 20 years on
the show. He also holds the record for most years with the show by a
non-contract actor. Mr. Frabotta graciously agreed to do this interview and
give a look back over his career and his time on
Don Frabotta: Salem's Favorite
How did you first get into acting?
"The first thing I ever did was an angel at a Church Christmas
Pageant, at which I fell asleep...Then I did plays in high school...After I got
out of the Army, I went to study at Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts
in Pasadena, California. It was from there and during school
that I got my first paid acting work when scenes from a play I was doing on the
professional stage there were selected to be seen on a local PBS show called
"Theatre Beat." I appeared on that show a second time a year later with scenes
from a small theatre show I was involved in. Right after that, I got my first
How did you originally get involved with "Days of
"I got on "Days of Our Lives" by pure luck. After
college, I was involved in running three local L.A. theatres at night. During
the day, I worked in the NBC mail room. At that time, you could not work at NBC
and appear on a show. Four years later, I quit the mail room to appear as a
bartender on "Bright Promise", another soap on NBC, but it got cancelled. I was
out of work a bit and NBC called me back to the mail room because the head of
the department had surgery and was going to be out for one month. After that, I
went over to the "Days" production office and handed over my photo and resume
and said 'I'd like some work.' I was called two days later, and, (on the March
25, 1974 episode), I played a bellhop in Portofino when Julie married Bob
Anderson. I thought I was in heaven. A few weeks later, I got another call for
work, this time to be a gurney pusher (ambulance attendant, on the April 22,
1974 episode). It was at that time that I heard them talking about the waiter
position at Doug's Place. Whoever was scheduled to play him was not
available. Helen Hall, the production assistant, suggested me to Wes
Kenney, the executive producer/director. I was asked to come in to read for the
part...Wes Kenney saw me and asked what I was doing there. I replied that I was
there to read for the part. His response was 'You want it?', to which I nodded
yes. He then said 'You've got it. Go home and we'll call you.' (Frabotta's first
episode as the Doug's Place waiter was aired on June 18, 1974). I
have no idea where Helen Hall is today, but I thank her every day. There was a
tendency in the early days to hire performers who had theatre training, so I
know that that mention on my resume helped. Later (in May, 1975), when Hal
Riddle (who played Max the maitre'd) left the show, I stepped into being maitre
d' as well, until Robert Clary came back to the show (in June, 1975). I resumed
the maitre d' position when Clary left (in March, 1980).
did the Doug's Place waiter get named Dave? Were there ever any thoughts of
a last name for Dave?
I'm not sure
when exactly I became Dave, but it was early on. We were still a half-hour
show and rehearsing in the rehearsal hall in the main building. I had
another name before Dave, one that was just written in by the writers and was, I
think, only uttered once. The fan clubs and magazines had a contest one
time to see who could remember that other name. At some point, Wes Kenney
stopped in rehearsal and said 'You look more like a Dave, so we'll call you
Dave.' Also, there was another contest to give Dave a last name. The
contest winner, who was selected because of their reasoning and storyline
ideas, wanted me to be a DiMera. But, as for the show, no one ever
seriously considered giving Dave a last name, although I recall executive
producer Al Rabin bringing it up and joking about it.
the various Salem restaurants, you got a chance to work with a majority of the
cast. Who were your favorite actors to work with? Are there any actors you wish
you got to have more scenes with?
I truly enjoyed working with
everyone over the years. I was just so happy, and lucky, to be working as much
as I did. I looked forward to getting up at 4AM to head to the set, why would I
not be? Of course, I worked with some actors more than others.
Frances Reid (Alice Horton) was one of the most stunning ladies I'd met
in the business. She, too, studied at Pasadena Playhouse, so we had that bond
which comes from studying there. One day, there were five of us who were in a
scene who had studied/taught at Pasadena Playhouse at different times...one
being Jed Allan (Don Craig), whom I loved doing scenes with. Once it was evident
that I'd be on the show for awhile, Frances approached me about union things
that an actor should really concern themselves with. From that, I became very
involved in union work, specifically dealing with daytime serial wages and
working conditions. Frances taught me a great importance too. The first time
"Alice" dropped an "F-bomb", I was on the floor. Here was this actress, who was
so very important in theatre, television and radio history...here was the
doyenne of soaps...the mother figure of "Days"...and she could be as salty as
Macdonald Carey (Tom Horton): I loved doing crossword puzzles
with Mac. Again, here was this superstar of the old movies that I was getting a
chance to perform with. I loved hearing his stories from the old
Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes (Doug Williams and Julie Williams): I
learned so much from Susan, watching her and getting advice from her. Even
though I'm miles away, I still consider them my friends and
John Clarke (Mickey Horton) was a wonderful actor and very
generous in his scenes. I still enjoy seeing some of his early work (on
Suzanne Rogers (Maggie Horton), of course, is another
all-time favorite. She's one of the most talented people on the show and such a
warm, beautiful lady. I especially enjoyed my time at Tuscany (the restaurant
where Dave worked from 2000-2004) because of her.
Robert Clary (Robert
LeClair) is an all-time favorite. I had enjoyed his work on "Hogan's Heroes" and
couldn't believe I was working next to him. I loved it when he and Bill Hayes
(Doug) sang in the old days.
Ed Mallory (Bill Horton) was a bit
reserved in the beginning, but warmed up (as time went on) and I loved watching
his scenes in the early days.
Mary Frann (Amanda Peters) and Joe
Gallison (Neil Curtis) were spectacular people.
Mark Tapscott (Bob
Anderson) was generous.
Lanna Saunders (Marie Horton): I adored working
Elaine Princi (Kate Winograd & Linda Anderson) became
a friend over the years and I would have liked to have had more scenes with
Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans), without knowing it, taught me a lot. I
remember when she first came on the show and how she built the Marlena character
to where it was. She was a shrewd, focused business lady who truly cared for her
fans and usually knew most of them by name. I'm still very thankful that she
included me in her big fan gatherings.
Gloria Loring (Liz Curtis) and
Patty Weaver (Trish Clayton) were so easy to work with.
deLancie (Eugene Bradford) was fascinating to watch. He had such depth of
character. A cerebral actor who was super in the "heavy" moments and had
great comic timing. I loved his scenes with Arleen Sorkin especially, I
thought they worked off each other in a wonderful symbiotic way. I'd seen
him on stage and in other TV stuff....and his work has always, still is, been
top of the line.
Arleen Sorkin (Calliope Jones): I loved working with
her and wish I had had more scenes with her. She was so in the moment and
you had to be on your toes. I remember her first day and how scared she
George Jenesky (Nick Corelli): I loved working with him. He's a
wonderfully talented performer.
Charlotte Ross (Eve Donovan): I remember
her first day on the show and watched her blossom into the wonderful actress
that she is today.
Joe Mascolo (Stefano DiMera) was always generous and
thoughtful to others in the scene.
Peggy McCay (Caroline Brady) has to be one of the finer actresses
around. I've always admired her and loved watching her work on the show and
elsewhere. An actor's actor and a lovely lady.
Frank Parker (Grandpa Shawn Brady) was always fun to be around. I
loved the jokes and stories and he could sing at the drop of a hat. He
was always friendly towards me.
John Aniston (Victor Kiriakis) always amazed me. He had, still does, this
very quiet demeanor that speaks volumes. A thoughtful, caring actor.
Thaao Penghlis (Tony DiMera & Andre DiMera) also was a wonderful
performer. I had seen him in other things that were pre-"Days" and
some after and in-between. He had a wonderful intensity in his
characterization and I always found him to be very kind to me and caring.
Wally Kurth (Justin Kiriakis) was such fun....had a very nice light
attitude about everything, it seemed. A super friendly person. We
had very few scenes together, but I liked watching his work on the
Judi Evans (Adrienne Kiriakis & Bonnie Lockhart): When I think of Judi,
I think of laughter. She seemed to bring that wherever she went. Just a
dear and friendly person. I wish I had had the opportunity to be in more
scenes with her.
Stephen Nichols (Steve Johnson): I remember when he came on the show.
We were working at Sunset/Gower Studios and, of course, he was to be there a
short few days....and stayed. An intense, well thought-out performance was
always a given with him, yet, he had a very nice light side about him.
Caring. Thoughtful. I was fortunate to be in his scenes a lot.
His work with Mary Beth Evans was some of the best daytime serial stuff around
in its time. I'll always remember that they wanted to have me in that
calendar shot [the 1990 "Days" calendar] with them. That made me feel so
Mary Beth Evans (Kayla Johnson) has to be one of the sweetest people
around. Very caring and giving. It was a joy to be in the same room
with her. I loved watching the truth in her face when she was performing.
Missy Reeves (Jennifer Deveraux) has to be one of the sweetest people on
the Earth. She's always so up and so kind.
Matthew Ashford (Jack
Deveraux) was so great to have scenes with.
Drake Hogestyn (John Black)
and Peter Reckell (Bo Brady): Had lots of fun with them.
(Hope Brady) is another great person to be in a scene with. And offcamera, she
has to be one of the nicest, most respectful people around.
(Abe Carver) and Josh Taylor (Chris Kositchek & Roman Brady) are men's
men. They are stable characters on the show and truly super
Finally, Betty Corday (the executive producer), in the early
days, would come in to watch the dress rehearsal to give the final okay on how
the show would be done. And no one would change a comma after that because the
taping was viewed. She was truly a business woman and an Earth Mother. She truly
cared about the performers in the "Days of Our Lives" family and was always so
Do you have a favorite fan encounter that stands
Well, the most
memorable, of course, was Elizabeth Taylor. She and Richard Burton were doing a
traveling stage production of 'Private Lives.' We working at Sunset/Gower
Studios at the time (in the late 1980s), and someone, I think it was either
Quinn Redeker (Alex Marshall) or Leann Hunley (Anna DiMera), suggested that some
of us get together and go see the show. None of us were working that day, so we
gathered at the studio and had a mini-party before heading out. The theatre was
out on Wilshire Boulevard. Thirteen of us walked in, and you could hear the
buzz..."Days of Our Lives!"...We found our seats and truly enjoyed the
show, in which Ms. Taylor "went up" on her lines and "broke the fourth
wall" and said to the audience: 'I can't remember my line. Do you
mind if we start this scene over?' The audience went wild for about ten
minutes. I don't think Mr. Burton was very happy, however! At intermission, this
big, bouncer-type guy comes over and asks if we were the "Days of Our
Lives" people. Quinn Redeker answered in the affirmative. The man said
'Fine. Miss Taylor would like to see you all after the performance. Please wait
here and I will show you backstage.' We were escorated backstage and to her
dressing room. And there was this gorgeous woman whom we'd all admired for
years. It was like meeting the Queen! We lined up to shake her hand and be
introduced. I do remember saying 'I'm Don Frabotta', to which she said 'Of
course...you play Dave.' She was obviously a huge and true fan. I couldn't wait
to get to a phone to call my parents on the East Coast. Miss Taylor really
wanted to be on the show, but things couldn't be worked out. [Taylor would later
appear on "General Hospital"]. In later years, when Miss Taylor appeared
on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", which was down the hall
from the "Days" studio, I went over, in costume and makeup, and got to say hello
to her two more times.
That said, I am still in contact with many of the
fans who have watched the show for years and years as well. They are true
friends. I enjoyed meeting all of them when they came out to California for the
gatherings, or when they came to the softball games, or when I traveled out of
state to help raise money for charities. I owe a lot to them for keeping Dave in
years, you had a special "end credit" at the end of the cast
credits? How did that happen?
I'm not sure when that started,
but I do recall when it ended, because that "end credit" became a special
position, sometimes negotiated, on the crawl. I'm not sure who first gave me
credit on the crawl, but it was probably Wes Kenney. Al Rabin was also super to
and for me. But I also owe a lot of credit to Ken Corday for that credit
listing. He was very generous to me over the years.
How did you
end up back on the show in 2000?
When I first
left the show in 1993, I went to New York and worked a bit as a stage
manager at NYU. Though New York is so expensive, it is still one of my
favorite cities in the world. I then came back to Massachusetts, and
helped out with ny father, who passed away at the end of 1995. During my stay
there, I worked in several movies, small parts, out of the Boston
market, and I helped manage an Equity theatre in the city nearby. I left to
look after my father's sister, who passed away not long after that. Then I went
back to the theatre and worked in the box office, becoming the manager. It was
hard work and long days, but I was in heaven again. I decided to head back to
California (in 2000) and, after a few months, it was suggested to Ken Corday, by
a friend on the show, that they have me back as Dave in Maggie's new restaurant,
Tuscany. I had been pursuing commercials and working in local theatre again, and
continued that while I was on "Days" again.
Are there any
memorable episodes or scenes that stand out more than the
I remember getting a stunt double when a storm happened and
the ceiling of Wings caved in. There were so many shows that were so good. I
loved being in the middle of those stories. I used to read every script I was in
from page one to the last, so that I could find the essence of the day. There
were so many moving, sad and happy scenes throughout the years. I'd sit on the
side and watch scenes that I was not in and marvel at the work being done. It
was a great place to work. A great training ground to learn. In the early days,
in show business, the "soaps" weren't looked at too favorably. I remember
one agent suggesting that I leave the show before she would represent me.
"Soap" actors were thought of as this "distant cousin." But, in time, it became
a place that many tried to get work on. There was a "technique" at working
on a soap. But I found that it served so well for other aspects of the business.
It was soon learned that if you could work on a soap, you certainly could do
other things. I think every scene, every day was special. I was working in a
What were the biggest changes you
saw in the production of the show from the 1970's to the
Well, we went from half hour to one hour (in April 1975).
That transition was difficult but very instructive. A lot was learned as to what
could be done. When the show was a half hour, you certainly had free time
to go and work elsewhere that day. When we went to an hour, that was going for
awhile, and after working 14-18 hours a day, you really didn't feel up to
working elsewhere. The longer days changed over time. Working those early
one-hour shows was difficult, especially for the younger actors who had "front
burner" storylines and 40+ pages of dialogue a day. Sometimes 3, 4, or even
5 days a week. To watch the younger ones find their pacing and
method was interesting. There was much contract discussion at that time to
whittle the hours down for those who had long weeks. I worked many five day
weeks. I learned, and didn't complain...I was working! The pacing changed over
the years. Early on, we had more rehearsal time. That was found to not be
needed later on, and we did learn to work without that. The camarderie, the
"family" continued over the years, but the "bottom line" loomed larger and
larger over the years. Money wasn't coming in as in the early heydey of soaps
and corners had to be cut. Some of those cuts were severe, though necessary to
continue the show as it is today. Performer contracts changed. The number od
work days offered changed. The crew also felt the squeeze. Their hours were also
cut back and we lost some of them who were fired. I have to mention how
important the crew and production staff was for this endeavor. I learned a lot,
as a performer, from the crew. They, too, were "family" and I loved working with
them over the years.
What have you been up to since
leaving "Days" again in 2004?
post-"Days", I did continue pursuing commercials while out in California and did
a couple more plays. However, with the pull of family and the disenchantment
with the general sense of the business as a whole...and the traffic!...I decided
to head back East. It's been interesting to say the least. People still talk to
me on the street as if I were still on the show. They fill me in if I haven't
watched. I still get calls for work in movies, but haven't accepted too many of
them. I did do a few when I first returned and worked on a couple of cable
series that were filmed in Rhode Island...all small background parts. I worked
on the stage in Worcester, Boston and Northampton, Massachusetts. I go to
theatre whenever I can and to the movies and I keep in touch with my friends in
California, so I know somewhat what is going on. I've heard from Robert Clary
and enjoyed his book. I hear from Bill Hayes once in awhile. A couple of people
on the staff and crew are still in touch, so I get some news now and then.
"Days" is still and will always be a huge part of my life. As for the fans, I
just want them to know ow much a part of the "family" they were and still are,
and I thank them for all their support over the years. Many of them ask if I
will ever write a book about my years on "Days." It is a consideration, but
would take discipline and winnowing out of the stories. We'll see.....!
Don & Dave Through The
Don & Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie) during his first year on
the show in 1974.
Don & Robert Clary (Robert) pose on the set in
Dave on the job at Doug's Place On The Lake,
Don's head shot, c. 1980s.
Lisa Howard (April), George Jenesky (Nick) and Charlotte Ross (Eve)
help Don celebrate his 1,000th episode as Dave, 1989.
One of the gifts Don
received was the hourglass that he's holding.
Don with Stephen Nichols (Steve) and Mary Beth Evans
(Kayla) on the February 1990 page of the 1990 "Days" calendar.
Don gets "Dave" dressed up for Halloween, 1990.
Don with Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie) on the December 1992 page of
the 1992 "Days" calendar.
Don's head shot, c. 1990's.
Don is back in his maitre'd outfit for service at Tuscany,
Don's head shot, c.