Oh, my hat, it’s Martha’s place

By admin
30 July 2010

The sign on the door of one of Los Angeles’ busiest hotspots reads “Henry’s Hat”, with the words “eat, drink, play” beneath. Inside it’s buzzing thanks to 14 big-screen TVs and groups of people playing Battleship, chess and backgammon.

Among the crowd are several familiar faces from Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful. One of these stars is a more permanent fixture at Henry’s Hat though. Martha Madison (32), the bubbly blonde who plays Days’ Belle Black, is here pretty much every day. It’s not because she likes hanging out in a sports bar all day though; the petite actress co-owns the place.

Martha has been working at Henry’s Hat with her husband, AJ Gilbert, since being fired from the soapie in early 2008 (because South Africa is so far behind she’ll be on our screens until 2011) - and she’s proving there’s life after Days.

Helping AJ with the day-to-day running of Henry’s Hat is a seven-days-a-week job, she adds. But, soapie fans, don’t worry, she doesn’t plan to give up acting soon.

Working with her husband has its ups and downs. “It’s a unique challenge,” she says. “We’re really good friends and have lots of similar ideas. But being married and working together can be difficult at times.”

The couple, who’ll celebrate their third anniversary in August, met in 2003 when AJ hired Martha to manage one of his other restaurants. It was before she’d landed the part of Belle and she “ended up dating the boss”, she says.

They dated for four years and he proposed on her birthday. “I love everything about him. He gets me. He’s really patient and is a great husband.”

She’s so bubbly it’s hard to believe she was a shy kid although she insists it’s true. Despite this her mom, Barbara, who has multiple sclerosis, enrolled her in musical theatre classes when she was six and she ended up the captain of her university dance team.

Martha opted for psychology studies and graduated in 1999 from Texas A&M University. Even though she hasn’t used her degree she’s glad she has it, she says. “Most people don’t expect a little blonde actress in Hollywood to have a degree. It has given me a leg-up and teaches you skills to try new things.”

She enjoyed being part of the love triangle between Belle, Philip and Shawn. “It’s a lot of fun and I got to work with some of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen. Definitely a perk of the job.”

The downside was having to cry all the time - something she doesn’t miss at all. “I learnt a few triggers that help me feel sad but it’s a secret I can’t tell you.”

What she can reveal is there are happier times ahead for Belle plus a wedding on the cards. Which, if Martha could sing, would be something to croon about.

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