Why Gerry Turner Was the Perfect Choice to Be the First Golden Bachelor

Gerry Turner makes his highly anticipated debut as The Golden Bachelor on Sept. 28 and he opened up to E! News about his approach to the historic role.

By Tierney Bricker Sep 28, 2023 11:00 AMTags
Watch: "Golden Bachelor" Gerry Turner on His Search for Love

It's never too late to fall in love again. Just ask Gerry Turner.

The former restauranteur's dream of a quiet post-retirement life on the lake was shattered six years ago when his wife of 43 years, Toni, died suddenly from a bacterial infection. Devastated, Gerry relied on the support from their two daughters and granddaughters to guide him through his grief, and, eventually, a new plan for his golden years: Becoming the first star of ABC's The Golden Bachelor

Never has a new lead been so quickly and universally accepted and beloved by Bachelor Nation when it was officially announced that the 72-year-old widower with a love for pickleball would be handing out roses on the long-awaited spin-off. And throughout his appearances prior to beginning his journey, the public response to Gerry grew even more affectionate, so much so that ABC actually changed its schedule to make The Golden Bachelor the lead-in for Bachelor in Paradise's ninth season.

We'll gladly take the early bird special this time, thank you very much. 

And it's not as if Gerry is nervous or anything about America watching his journey to find his second great love. No, really, he's not. 

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"As I went through the process and I was as genuine and as honest as I could be," Gerry told E! News' Francesca Amiker in an exclusive interview. "I feel like at every turn, I did the right thing. So I don't have any fears."

ABC/Brian Bowen Smith

Well, he is a little concerned about one promise he made to his family that he broke mere hours into filming.

"The only thing might be a little bit of embarrassment when my granddaughters see I failed my commitment to not kiss anyone on the first night and I did," Gerry admitted. "And then in short, subsequent manner after that, I think I kissed everyone on the show. Including the cameraman and a couple of the audio people."

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And he has a sense of humor, ladies and gents!

But Gerry is taking his newfound fame in stride, explaining he's "ready for whatever happens" after The Golden Bachelor premieres on Sept. 28, and revealed he's looking forward to viewers meeting the 22 women who are vying for his final rose

"The most exciting thing for me is for the world to see the level of beauty and intelligence and poise that all the women bring to the show—and the energy!" he shared. "If America sees how much energy people of our age have, it will be refreshing to them and invigorating."

ABC/Brian Bowen Smith

Still, Gerry had some initial reservations about becoming the first-ever senior citizen Bachelor, revealing he had to do "a lot of soul-searching with respect to" his late wife "on whether or not this was the right thing to do."

Ultimately, it was Toni herself that led him to say yes. 

"I kept going back to the conversations we had over the years that when one of us passed, the other one was so empowered to continue on with their lives and find happiness," he recalled. "We had those conversations, as many couples do, so that was the message I took with me as I started the journey."

Given his age and stage of life, Gerry approached many of the show's trademark events with a fresh perspective, including the fantasy suites, which he stressed was "an open gate to an emotional and intellectual connection" in his eyes. 

"I know that the general assumption is that the fantasy suite is for the physical part and it really isn't for me and it wasn't," he explained. "It was the time where I was able to have open and frank conversation with women without the eyes of America on me through the cameras."

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And those private talks proved vital.

"Believe me when I say it was the most important time of the journey, I'm not exaggerating," Gerry stressed. "And it has to do with the conversations that happened. If I had gone behind the locked door for the physical intimacy, I wouldn't have come out with the right decisions that I made after those nights. I would've missed some very important information that was exchanged."

ABC/Brian Bowen Smith

Ultimately, Gerry said, "It took me a long time to get to where my final decision was."

But, "as more and more information was absorbed and processed, it led me down a certain path," he teased. "It wasn't like I had a hard time finding my way. I really had good clues, but I had to be awake and alert to see them when they happened."

Dare we say this could be the most mature finale in Bachelor history? 

What to Expect

While the lead and contestants may be older, ABC teased that The Golden Bachelor—which was delayed for several years due to COVID-19 after it was announced in January 2020—will follow a similar format to the OG show. 

"The women arriving at the mansion have a lifetime of experience, living through love, loss and laughter, hoping for a spark that ignites a future full of endless possibilities," the network's May 16 press release read. "In the end, will our Golden man turn the page to start a new chapter with the woman of his dreams?"

But host Jesse Palmer shared that the stakes will be different on The Golden Bachelor because of the "emotional maturity" and life experiences of the older cast

"The way that they decipher problems, the way that they think about some of the situations that they're in—whenever they face adversity, it's pretty interesting," Jesse told E! News. "It's a very, very resilient group of people. That's probably been one of the more surprising things for me."

And while it will be—say it with us—dramatic, the spinoff will also be uplifting, according to Jesse.

"The vibe of the show up to this point has been very different from the other shows that I've been a part of in the last two years," he noted. "There's really this sort of overarching theme of hope on this show. If it doesn't work out between the lead and one of the women, it's not so much heartbreak but it's more, 'You know, I wasn't sure I could put myself out there again and give love another try. You and this experience have given me the courage to do that moving forward, and I believe I'm gonna find my person.' And it's beautiful."

When It Premieres

The Golden Bachelor will debut Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET, with Bachelor in Paradise returning for a two-hour premiere starting at 9:01 p.m ET.

The Lead

Sorry future Bachelor Joey Graziadei, but America is all about Gerry Turner, who was announced as the franchise's first senior citizen lead on July 17.

The Golden Bachelor will follow the 72-year-old Indiana resident as he embarks on his journey for a second chance at love six years after the death of his high school sweetheart and wife Toni. The retired restauranteur has two daughters, Angie and Jenny, and two granddaughters, Charlee and Payton, and, according to ABC, he enjoys getting outside on a four-wheeler, hosting barbecues and playing pickleball.

"He has just been so incredible," Jesse told E! News of Gerry. "He's so personable. He's so loving. He was the perfect person to do this. Just really sweet, just humble, appreciative, grateful for the opportunity, amazing family. When I first talked to Gerry, I talked to him with his daughters and his granddaughters, and you can just kinda see it."

Gerry's Lost Love

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Gerry and Toni's love story was shared during The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All special on Aug. 14. 

"I married my high school sweetheart Toni in 1972," Gerry said in the clip. "We had 43 wonderful years together. We had two daughters, and I now have two wonderful granddaughters. We had a real typical but beautiful life—full of love, full of activity."

After Gerry and Toni retired, they purchased what he called their "dream house" in May 2017, but the couple's plans for the future were tragically cut short soon after.

"From June 6 on, it didn't go according to plan at all," Gerry recalled before tearing up. "She became ill, and her situation got worse over a couple of weeks. And so, we went to the emergency room, and she had a bacterial infection that infected her kidneys and infected her liver. And so, I took my wife to the emergency room on July 7. She passed away on July 15."

What Gerry Is Looking For

"I really want to find my person who can put me in my place when I need it and make me smile at it," Gerry said in a clip that aired during the Aug. 14 episode of The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All. "The person who can lay down beside you at night and not have to say anything and you feel it. That's love. That's what I want, and I know that person's out there."

Being active is also a plus for anyone interested in dating Gerry.

"I'd love it if I found a partner who was high-energy," he revealed during an interview with Good Morning America. "Someone that maybe plays pickleball, someone that maybe plays golf."

The Women

ABC unveiled the 22 contestants that will be embarking on the journey to win Gerry's heart on Aug. 30, and the line-up included a familiar face: Patty James, the mother of The Bachelor season 25 star Matt James. After Patty's casting was announced, Matt celebrated his mom's new gig on his Instagram Story by posting her official photo and writing, "i ccc uuu mama" with a heart emoji.

The women's ages range from 60-75 and their professions include pro-aging coach and midlife speaker, wedding officiant, therapist and fitness instructor. 

The First Night

Along with a lot of sequins, viewers can expect to see the women sporting self-esteem when they arrive at the Bachelor mansion to meet Gerry, according to Jesse.

"One of the things I've really enjoyed about this group of women? They are so much more confident getting out of the limo on night one—unlike anything I've ever seen," Jesse told E! News. "It's always the limo entrance arrival, the nerves stepping out, cameras, the mansion, all of it. Because they've lived life [and] they've had experiences, they are rock stars—and all throughout this season. On group dates, on one-on-one dates, traveling, they just shine."

But don't expect Gerry to call it an early evening.

"The night does not end at 10 p.m. like I thought it might—only because people were a little bit older, maybe they wouldn't be able to stay up as late," Jesse shared. "People know that first night at the mansion is the longest night in television—period. I mean, normally that goes from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m., and it is an all-nighter and they are rollin'. And I'll say this—having been on it now for a couple years—a lot of these young kids, they talk a lot of game but inevitably you see them on the couch passed out taking little naps here and there."

Not this year's stars though. "There were no naps taken on The Golden Bachelor," he added. "They partied hard, and they went from sundown to sunup."

The Golden Bachelor premieres Thursday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. on ABC.