22 women and a second chance at love: Gerry Turner’s ‘whirlwind’ moment as ‘The Golden Bachelor’

Gerry Turner looks to the right while surrounded by greenery.
Gerry Turner in Los Angeles in mid-August. The 72-year-old is the star of “The Golden Bachelor,” premiering on ABC on Sept. 28.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

For more than 40 years, Gerry Turner was married to Toni, his high school sweetheart and the love of his life, with whom he had two daughters. His world shattered in 2017 when she died following a sudden illness. The following years for Turner were clouded by grief. Dating new women had little appeal.

But buoyed by supportive family and friends, the 72-year-old grandfather is now set on finding his second once-in-a-lifetime. Diving head and heart first into the dating pool, he’s going out with 22 women at once.

The journey requires a bold step out of his comfort zone — Turner has temporarily relocated to the Los Angeles area, thousands of miles away from his Indiana home. He’s being stalked by camera crews. He knows that his search for love will also leave a trail of broken hearts. Millions of strangers he will never meet may disagree with his final choice.

Gerry Turner from the shoulders up looks forward.
Gerry Turner, an Indiana native, is in Los Angeles, where “The Golden Bachelor” is in production.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

But the retired restaurateur has his mind made up: “I’m very hopeful and optimistic. I really want to find that unique, intelligent woman who makes me feel like a million dollars every single minute.”

Turner is the star of “The Golden Bachelor,” a new twist on ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise, which is typically flavored by fairy-tale romance, exotic locations and over-the-top drama. Instead of nubile contestants in their 20s and 30s finding love and sex inside the show’s isolated bubble, the spinoff, which premieres Sept. 28, features retirees in their 60s and 70s, many looking for a second or third chance at love.

Gerry Turner, 71, will star in ABC’s ‘The Golden Bachelor,’ a spinoff of ‘The Bachelor’ that skews slightly older than the franchise’s typical fare.

July 17, 2023

The season will include the usual touchstones of the franchise: physical contests, moonlit suppers, cuddles in hot tubs, and tense elimination rose ceremonies — where the bachelor hands out red roses as he narrows the field of potential partners.

And yes, there will also be fantasy suites, where Turner will get the opportunity to spend the night with each of his top three finalists outside the view of prying cameras.

The series is a love story years in the making. Producers of the veteran franchise say there has been consistent demand for an edition with older contestants. Plans were progressing before being shut down by the pandemic. Now that lockdowns have eased and more people are willing to be in close quarters, the series is back on track.

In a scene from "The Golden Bachelor," Gerry Turner holds the hands of a bachelorette in a purple sleeveless dress.
Gerry Turner meeting one of the bachelorettes on “The Golden Bachelor.”
(Craig Sjodin / ABC)

Even though the sexual sizzle may be a little calmer in this iteration of the franchise, executives believe “The Golden Bachelor” will have an appeal beyond its loyal fan base.

“This is a show for Bachelor Nation, but there is a contingency of lapsed viewers who have been asking during the 20-year history of ‘The Bachelor’ for an older love story,” said Rob Mills, executive vice president of unscripted and alternative entertainment for Walt Disney Television. “We’re hoping for a broader audience than we normally see.”

The focus is likely to be more on romance than in previous seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” where several cast members appear to have been more interested in using the exposure to boost their social media profile than in finding a partner. The narrator in a trailer for the show turns the idea of contestants as influencers on its head, telling viewers that Turner “posts his thirst traps in a leather-bound album” and “his DMs have postage.”

Mills is certain that Turner has the true star quality to launch the spinoff: “We were looking for someone who has done a lot of living, a person who you could not help but root for. It was one of those ‘we’ll know it when we see it’ searches.”

Several weeks before his official debut, Turner has already won over much of Bachelor Nation. He received a thunderous reception when he popped in during the live “The Men Tell All” episode of “The Bachelorette.” Host Jesse Palmer, a former Bachelor himself, gushed, telling Turner he was trending when he was announced as the “Golden Bachelor.”

“If I knew what that meant, I would appreciate it a lot more,” responded Turner.

Gerry Turner stands in front of greenery in gray blazer and jeans with his hands near his hips.
Rob Mills, the executive producer of “The Golden Bachelor,” said of Gerry Turner: “We were looking for someone who has done a lot of living, a person who you could not help but root for. “
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Though excited with the prospect of finding a life partner, Turner has another key objective.

“The women and I are committed to showing the world that you still have energy and vitality in your 60s and 70s,” he said. “And guess what? You get a lot of wisdom. Some of us aren’t smart, but we’ve seen a lot of stuff. That’s a theme that I hope gets carried through the show.

“It’s a huge responsibility, but also an easy responsibility to carry out. It cuts through a lot of the garbage that may be necessary or appear to be necessary to a younger generation.”

Being thrust into the middle of a multimillion, heavily produced franchise does not appear to have fazed Turner; he projects a soft-spoken natural charm and likability that outshines the majority of the hard-bodied hunks in “The Bachelor” portfolio. His relaxed warmth and good-nurtured humor was spotlighted in a taped profile that aired during the live “Bachelorette” episode. In the video, we see him driving an ATV in an open field and playing pickleball, and interviews with his daughters described him as a “fun guy” who is “personable and lovable.”

“The best-case scenario is that I find out that Helen Mirren is on the market, and she’s happy to be on ‘The Golden Bachelor,’” he quips in the profile about the Oscar winner, who is happily married.

In an interview over Zoom several days after production for the show began and he was introduced to the women vying for his affections, Turner was upbeat and relaxed. The memory of the first night of the show’s taping was still vivid.


“That was one of the finest moments of my life — watching the women get out of the limo,” Turner said. “Their excitement was contagious. There was a first impression rose that I gave out that night, but I wish I had six or seven.”

But he became a bit overwhelmed by the hectic pace that followed the introductions.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” he admitted. “The activity is coming at me much faster than I expected. I tried to ramp myself up but I didn’t do a good enough job of it. There’s wonderful women here that I have had the pleasure to know but I’ve needed to get to know them in a hurry. That was unexpected. I thought there would be more time for in-depth and casual conversations.”

He added, “You have 22 blank slates. Or to use another metaphor, I’m basically reading 22 novels at the same time, and I have to go from book to book and remember the first pages. It’s quite a challenge intellectually but even more of a challenge emotionally.”

And he is no stranger to emotional challenges. It’s clear he misses Toni and cherishes their years together.

“I really had a wonderful marriage,” Turner said. “I think back on 43 years that were happy and productive. We raised children and did all the things that were expected.”

When she retired in May 2017, the couple bought their dream house, right on a lake. Escrow closed on June 6. But days later, Toni was stricken with a bacterial infection that infiltrated her kidneys and liver. He took her to the emergency room on July 7. She died on July 15. In the taped profile, he is overcome with emotion about her passing. “Every time I look at that lake, I go, ‘This is her dream, this is what she deserves. Why am I standing here alone?’” he says.

Concerns about whether he would compare the new women in his life to Toni initially crossed his mind but eventually melted away.


“I like banana cream pie, and I like chocolate cake, and to compare the two just isn’t fair,” he said. “This is an entirely different phase of life, and to have the same goals and criteria would be a mistake.”

He said the first dates turned out well. But he also had to confront the more brutal part of “The Bachelor” process — the rose ceremony that eliminates several contestants.

“Sadly, making women unhappy is part of the journey,” he said. “The first two rose ceremonies were the most difficult. I hadn’t formed enough information about some of the women to feel I was making a good informed decision. So some of it was based on just physical appearance or a first impression.”

The pressure will build with hometown dates, when Turner will meet the families of some of the frontrunners. Members of his family may also appear in the series.

And then there are the fantasy suites.

He realizes there’s a lot of attention about how that phase will play out: “I believe it’s a different mind-set for someone in their 60s or 70s than someone in their 20s and 30s. Even the definition of intimacy changes as we get older. A lot of us — and I’m including the women — are thinking about how nice it would be just to have a head on the pillow next to us, rather than some of the more intense activities.

Gerry Turner stands in a field in front of tree.
Gerry Turner on filming the series so far: “The first two rose ceremonies were the most difficult.”
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“That’s not to say that those things won’t occur, but I think it becomes an activity that is a little more organic and tender. I’m looking forward to those moments, but there are a lot of bridges to be crossed before I get there.”

The track record of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” is crammed with couples who break up after leaving the show. But Turner has no doubt he will be one of the franchise’s success stories.

Flashing a wide smile, he said, “Believe me, I’m committed to the journey and am an eternal optimist when it comes to this. I’m going to get to the end and find a charming, intelligent, gorgeous woman to spend the rest of my life with.”

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LA Times Today: Gerry Turner’s ‘whirlwind’ moment as ‘The Golden Bachelor’

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