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How Much Should We Care About ‘The Golden Bachelor’s Past?

Gerry Turner in a promotional photo for 'The Golden Bachelor'

After more than two decades of watching twenty- and thirty-somethings (mostly the former) participate in a heightened performance of traditional hetero courtship rituals in The Bachelor, The Golden Bachelor is a breath of fresh air. But according to a new exposé, leading many Gerry Turner might not be exactly as advertised on TV.

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Wait, did reality TV lie to us?! Is Gerry Turner not the perfect, kindhearted, surprisingly empathic and weirdly relatable old widower we’ve been sold? Were his edges sanded down to more neatly fit the character mold created by producers? Yes, kind of, and yes. In what is being touted as a shocking exposé, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Gerry (pronounced like “Gary”), a 72-year-old man, has A PAST. This is only surprising if you believe that the producers of The Golden Bachelor willed a fully-formed septuagenarian into being after years of intense transcendental meditation with David Lynch.

For the unfamiliar, The Golden Bachelor has become a huge, unexpected hit for ABC. The series was teased over the past few years through promos attached to episodes of the main Bachelor franchise, enticing seniors to apply to be on the spinoff. Gerry is the first GB, and immediately won viewers over with his sensitivity, empathy, and humor. His wife of 43 years, Toni, died unexpectedly, shortly after they moved into their dream home in Indiana. Six years later, Gerry is ready to find love again from a pool of senior bachelorettes, all of whom are appropriately aged. The conversations are interesting, productive, and realistic; everyone has a mostly reasonable outlook on life and relationships; the biggest scandal in the house all the ladies share is whether or not finalist Teresa is oversharing about her connection with Gerry.

And what are Gerry’s shocking secrets? In its tedious first half, the THR article “reveals” that Gerry didn’t really retire in 2005 and that his former career cannot be simply described as “restaurant owner”—none of which is notable in a country where few people work a single career in their lifetimes and it’s nearly impossible to retire securely. Also, THR discovered most of this by looking at Gerry’s LinkedIn profile, so it’s not as if he’s hiding his work history. In fact, more than once in the article, the writers note that former coworkers spoke highly of Gerry, who was apparently very good at “conflict resolution.” (Again, not very shocking if you’ve watched the show.)

The real meat of the article is Gerry’s former relationships with two women. On The Golden Bachelor, Gerry maintains that he’s been single since his wife died and that he hasn’t dated in 45 years. Given that Gerry has an older person’s view of the term “single,” this part remains technically true. He was only married once. But according to the report, Gerry has been involved in romantic relationships since his wife’s passing. More specifically, Gerry dated a few different women for short periods in recent years, and had one longterm relationship with a woman THR calls “Carolyn.”

Based on Carolyn’s telling, her relationship with Gerry—whom she met when they both worked at a mental health facility—was far from ideal. Gerry began courting Carolyn about a month after his wife’s passing, and yeah, that sounds really soon. Not to excuse any of the actions Carolyn describes in the article, which sound hurtful, but grief is fucked up. Gerry almost definitely started dating again way too soon. The texts he sent to Carolyn confirm as much:

Indeed, an eager and self-deprecating Gerry joked while texting, “I got LUCKY when you first said you would go to dinner with me two weeks ago. I mean how often does an old geezer get the beautiful girl?”

Soon thereafter, Gerry texted: “You are the right woman for me. No need to look further.”

The way Gerry talks about finding love on TV—he’s not looking to replace Toni, which is impossible, but he’s excited to find a different love with someone new—doesn’t sound like the Gerry in those texts. Probably because that sort of wisdom comes from experience Past Gerry didn’t have yet.

According to Carolyn, Gerry started asking her to move in with him pretty early on, and continued to do so for almost a year. She finally agreed and the two lived together for nearly two years, during which Gerry allegedly had weird rules about money and was kind of a clean freak. Carolyn had to contribute $850 each month for expenses and Gerry preferred that they go halfsies on food except for special occasion meals. THR notes that “At restaurants, Carolyn paid her half in advance, and then when the check came, Gerry paid the whole tab, like the big man.” Gerry also “insisted that Carolyn make the bed before she come upstairs for breakfast.”

Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t really see anything shocking here aside from getting a little too serious a little too fast after the death of his spouse. My boyfriend and I take turns paying for takeout, and when we move in together, we’ll split the bills. That’s pretty normal. I wouldn’t move in with him expecting for a free ride. This isn’t 1950s America. And while I don’t have a habit of making my own bed, it’s my understanding that when you live in a home where making the bed is a thing, the person who gets out of bed last has to make the bed. THR would have you believe that Gerry manipulated this poor woman into … being an adult in a relationship with a man who treats her as an equal?

Mostly, it sounds like Gerry was trying to replicate a relationship that meant a lot to him and he predictably failed. The one piece of the story that actually makes Gerry look bad comes from the end of their relationship:

She was packing for Gerry’s high school reunion, set to take place in October 2019. “I’m not taking you to the reunion looking like that,” Carolyn recalls him saying as he pointed to her body. She’d put on 10 pounds — from stress, she says — but certainly wasn’t fat. 

The disinvitation led to the breakup. Gerry told Carolyn to be out by Jan. 1, 2020. He volunteered to cover the cost of her U-Haul as long as she paid the vendor, and he reimbursed her. 

She spent her first packing day alone while Gerry was out. She says she was so frazzled that she fell down the stairs, requiring a trip to the ER and foot surgery the following day — as confirmed by a hospital bill viewed by THR. Gerry arrived home that night, and — as Carolyn recalls — accused her of using the fall as an excuse to prolong her stay and suggested that she was planning to sue him for causing the injury.

In the end, she says, he refused to allow Carolyn to stay in their love nest during the final week of the two weeks’ notice she was required to give her boss before leaving her job. He told her to go to a hotel. 

This part sucks. Criticizing someone’s appearance is never okay, full-stop. Hopefully Gerry learned from this interaction, which I suspect was an excuse to end the relationship—though that does not justify his behavior.

But just how betrayed should we feel by this information? Gerry is on a reality show, which creates the illusion of intimacy. To wit: we refer to him by his first name, not his last as he would for any other public figure. A reality show presents a carefully orchestrated version of reality, heightening typical dramas for entertainment value and introducing its participants as archetypal characters, not complicated people. It’s not surprising that Gerry’s work history isn’t as plain and simple as “retired restaurateur,” nor is it surprising that he actually did do a little dating after his wife died. What makes Gerry likable and relatable isn’t that he hasn’t kissed anyone in six years—a detail I’d largely forgotten because it doesn’t matter—but that he’s a lonely person who experienced devastating loss, survived it, and is still open to loving again. I mean, that is a huge part of life.

And it’s so nice watching Gerry talk to all of these women about their lives and what they enjoy and how they want to spend the rest of their time on this hell-planet. It’s certainly way more interesting than watching 24 women in pageant gowns get into petty fights over some guy named Blake.

(featured image: ABC)

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Author

Britt Hayes
Britt Hayes (she/her) is an editor, writer, and recovering film critic with over a decade of experience. She has written for The A.V. Club, Birth.Movies.Death, and The Austin Chronicle, and is the former associate editor for ScreenCrush. Britt's work has also been published in Fangoria, TV Guide, and SXSWorld Magazine. She loves film, horror, exhaustively analyzing a theme, and casually dissociating. Her brain is a cursed tomb of pop culture knowledge.

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