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Howard Wise/JPI (3), Jill Johnson/JPI, NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

On June 13, 1985, the NBC soap added to Salem’s lot a new bad guy… who went on to make good. Great, even.

No one could have guessed when Stephen Nichols first appeared on Days of Our Lives that decades later, he would still be front and center. Initially, “Patch” Johnson was the kind of no-account thug who was more likely to steal your wallet than your heart — not exactly a blueprint for a long-term character.

But Nichols, a stage vet who’d studied with the great Stella Adler, no less, immediately got to work fleshing out the heavy. When viewers saw the dimensions that he added, they responded in a big way — then so did the powers that be. “Days of Our Lives is that way,” he told Soap Opera Digest three years into his run. “They follow the actor’s lead. They bring in a person for a small part, and if that person is creating something that really stands out, they go with it.”

More: Days of Our Lives twist that ‘saved’ Steve

That, he was, and that, they did. In fact, when the show paired Nichols with Mary Beth Evans’ Kayla Brady, further enhancing Patch’s innate, ahem, sweetness, they hit supercouple pay dirt. (So popular were the duo that when they joined the cast of General Hospital in the ’90s, the ABC soap hooked them up, too, as tragic lovers Stefan Cassadine and Katherine Bell.)

 

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On this momentous anniversary, celebrate Nichols’ incredible tenure as Steve by feasting your eyes on the below photo gallery, a collection of images from his long, unforgettable run as the erstwhile Patch.