Gerry Turner is the first ‘Golden Bachelor’. Just don’t call him the Silver Fox.

Women keep coming up to Gerry Turner at airports and asking to be photographed with him. This is not something that ever happened in the first seven decades of his life. But a lot has changed since Mr Turner, 72, signed on to date 22 women on a reality television show.

For example: He is spending less time at his home in Indiana. She keeps getting asked about her skin care routine. And she recently learned about the word “granddaddy.”

Mr. Turner heads “The Golden Bachelor,” the older version of “The Bachelor,” starting Thursday. A franchise that typically follows crease-less 20- and 30-something contestants as they look for love — or Instagram followers — now revolves around a retired man who, until recently, didn’t have an Instagram account. Was.

If Mr. Turner felt any pressure, he didn’t show it on a video call from Los Angeles earlier this month. “I have nothing to lose,” he said.

Mr. Turner has a jealous posture, dark hair on his forehead that fades to gray, and the wire of a hearing aid hanging over his ear. She recently completed filming a daily lifestyle segment that required her to repeatedly brush her teeth in front of the camera.

Mr Turner spent 43 years married to his high school sweetheart Toni, who died in 2017. During a period of isolation in 2020, he messaged his two daughters, Jenny Young and Angie Warner, that he was considering applying for the show. “We thought he was joking,” Ms. Warner said.

He hopes viewers will see that dating after retirement is not as uncommon as reality TV may make it out to be.

“People my age still fall in love,” he said. “People my age still have hope, and their lives are still energetic.” When he heard about “The Golden Bachelor”, he said: “Those were suddenly things I wanted to show in a show.”

Mr. Turner does not come across as a man who has spent his life striving for stardom. Asked if he had ever applied for a TV show before, he laughed and said: “Never! Never.”

Mr. Turner grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa, the eldest of four. She is close to her daughters and her two granddaughters, Peyton, 21, and Charlie, 16. He describes his retirement as a pleasant stream of low-impact entertainment: golf. mini golf. Support for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Each news is healthier than the last. Is this all just a tasteful outline of a franchise that knows how to package its leads?

“He’s 100 percent like that in real life,” said Ms. Warner, 40, who is trying to text her father with two thumbs instead of one index finger.

The casting team definitely could have gone in a different direction. “What we’re not looking for in the ‘Golden Bachelor’ is some kind of sly silver fox who has all the money in the world, private jetting from city to city, and he’s genuine or kind or warm or anything. doesn’t feel,” said Jason Ehrlich, executive producer and showrunner of ”The Golden Bachelor.” The team’s interest in Mr. Turner was piqued by the “tragic” story of his loss, Mr. Ehrlich said, but it was his honesty that Ultimately got him this role.

Executive producer and showrunner Bennett Grabner said, “We were just looking for someone who had the biggest heart.”

Mr. Turner’s first love story began in high school. On Friday nights, he played school basketball games and then attended dances held at the YMCA. “He couldn’t wait to get there,” he said, because he knew a girl named Toni, who had dark hair and wide eyes, would be present.

They enjoyed the kind of love that was not yet complicated by mortgages or child care. “All you can think about is that one person and how attracted you are to them,” he said. “And that’s what I realized with Tony.” During Mr. Turner’s junior year at the University of Iowa, they planned a wedding.

Mr. Turner worked in the food-delivery industry, and Tony worked as a volunteer coordinator for a hospital. As they raised their daughters, the couple saved to buy a lakeside home where they could enjoy their retirement together. In 2017, a few days after he moved, Tony fell ill with a bacterial infection. Mr. Turner brought him to the emergency room, where he died eight days later.

When Mr. Turner sees the photograph of her that still hangs in his closet, he believes that she will accept him in his search for love again. But his portrayal was his biggest source of concern when signing a franchise that leads to a tragedy.

He said, “I wanted to make sure that the story of my wife’s passing was told in a compassionate and sensitive way, and never sensationalized.” “I really didn’t want to tell that story over and over again. I wanted people to know this, but I also wanted to move forward.

In early 2020, Mr. Turner watched a season of “The Bachelor,” which ended with an engagement between the 28-year-old airline pilot and the 23-year-old model, like most of the couples emerging from ABC. The franchise, no longer together.

Mr. Turner said he has watched seven or eight seasons of the show. He wasn’t always its biggest fan. “I felt caught up in some drama,” he said. “Some of it seemed a little out of place, maybe not organic. This was something that turned me away from becoming a regular viewer.

But they watched so closely that a casting call looking for older contestants aired during an episode and texted their daughters. A few days later, he was nervous about how his hair looked on a Zoom call with producers.

The casting process came to a halt due to the pandemic but picked up again this February. “We found his tape, which had been sitting there for some time,” said Mr. Ehrlich, executive producer and showrunner. “And that was so wonderful.”

While Mr. Turner was on vacation, producers began harassing him with calls and messages, interrupting one of his mini-golf games. He initially thought the procedure might have to wait until he returned to Indiana. “It was like, oh no, we have to take you to a medical clinic to get your STD tested when you’re in Florida,” Mr. Turner said.

After each incident, Mr. Turner said he called his daughters, who were extremely excited and a little protective. His granddaughters forbade him from kissing anyone on the first night, saying: “I failed.”

Mr. Turner relocated to Los Angeles in late July for just one month of filming. It was a different experience from dating as a teenager, he said, not least because of the cameras and microphones tracking his every move.

To avoid embarrassing any women, they had some of the conversation off camera. But for the most part it was a mature crowd. The women he dated ranged in age from 60 to 75 and were introduced in August with fun facts like “Sandra is very proud of her high credit score.” In his view, any drama was limited to “a very small situation”.

Mr Turner said he was also more thoughtful about sex, adding that he hoped not much had changed since the last time he was on the market. “It was quite difficult to learn it at first,” he said. “If there’s something new, I have to learn it now.”

The franchise has positioned Mr. Turner as a wholesome grandfather as much as it has positioned him as a sex symbol. This includes advertisements featuring his eight-foot image with the text “Eat Your Heart Out” on New York City buses.

Like any seasoned reality TV contestant, he’s considering when and how to play.

“I don’t know what it means to be ‘Granddaddy’ and I don’t know what ‘Riz’ is, and I don’t really know what it means to be trending,” he said. “All those things are kind of unimportant to me. They don’t care.”

julia jacobs Contributed to the reporting.

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