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'The Golden Bachelor' Tells AARP: ‘Just Because You're a Certain Age, It Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Still Open For Romance’

Gerry Turner touts his new reality dating show at LA’s iconic Mel’s Drive-In

spinner image gerry turner stands in front of a convertible at mel's drive in
Frank Micelotta/ABC

Gerry Turner, 72, never imagined he’d be headlining a gig at L.A.’s Mel’s Drive-In, the retro burger joint immortalized in American Graffiti, on the Sunset Strip near a billboard that recently featured Mick Jagger, 80. But Turner, a tall, fit, handsome, genial widower who looks 10 years younger than his age and rocks a discreet hearing aid, is the star of a TV phenomenon as significant as the Stones’ new album is to music: The Golden Bachelor (premiering Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. on ABC), the reality show on which 22 women with a median age of 67 will vie for his hand.

​Bathed in bright klieg lights in Mel’s parking lot, which had been converted into a Golden Bachelor diorama festooned with the show’s trademark roses, including roses dipped in gold paint on cocktail tables, as The Crystals’ 1963 tune “Then He Kissed Me” blared over loudspeakers, Turner was asked if he would watch the show if he weren’t its star.

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​“Oh, I absolutely would!” Turner told AARP. “It’s a concept with a message that can be sent to America that just because you’re a certain age, it doesn’t mean you’re not relevant. It doesn’t mean you don’t still have enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean you’re not still open for romance and love with someone. All those things. And when they watch the show they will hear that.”

spinner image gerry turner holding a golden rose talks to a group of women sitting at a booth in mel's drive in
Frank Micelotta/ABC

​What’s his type? As he jokes in a video promo for the show, “The best-case scenario is that I find out that Helen Mirren is on the market and she’s really happy to be on The Golden Bachelor.” But some of his 22 potential lovers evidently match Mirren’s allure, because he has confessed that in taping the show, he did not take his daughters’ advice not to kiss any of the women the first night he met them. “I failed!”

Turner’s show is a welcome reprieve from the relentless ageism that disgraces American popular culture and is also a shrewd pivot by ABC, whose typical prime-time viewer is 61. In fact, it’s proof that grown-up stars and viewers are a source of rejuvenating new blood in our culture. With Mirren, 78, starring in five big films and a TV show this year, Martha Stewart on Sports Illustrated’s cover at 81, Steve Martin, 78, and Martin Short, 73, riding their hit Only Murders in the Building, and hits like The Equalizer 3, 80 for Brady, Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick driven by the clout of audiences over 50, Hollywood is suddenly giving the AARP demo some new respect.

spinner image the golden bachelor gerry turner sits at the bar of mel's drive in with a milkshake
Frank Micelotta/ABC

​The Bachelor franchise is in urgent need of a ratings boost, and Turner and his eager suitors are about to provide it. The Golden Bachelor is the first sure-fire new hit of the season, and ABC is giving it a huge push. There will be screenings at over 200 retirement communities, grown-ups’ discounts at 1-800-Flowers, and Golden Bachelor events at USA Pickleball tournaments, since pickleball is a massive trend among 50-plus people, and at least six of the show’s female contestants have announced that, like Turner, they’re wild about the sport. And there will be many coast to coast promotional events like the one at Mel’s. 

​Turner, an Indiana guy who spends his down time off-roading, confessed that before taking up temporary residence in Malibu to tape the show, he’d only ever spent one night in Los Angeles. But once the cameras were rolling he felt like he fit right in. “It very much came naturally,” he said, as Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” thumped in the background. “At no point did I feel nervous — until the very end.” That’s when he had to break some hearts and cut the last hopeful women loose. “In the last moments of the show I did [feel nervous], but I think that anyone in that situation would feel that.”

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spinner image the golden bachelor gerry turner stands outside of mel's drive in
Frank Micelotta/ABC

​As a publicist led Turner back into the scrum of reporters and internet influencers, the party’s soundtrack suddenly lurched into David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” the singer’s benediction for Turner’s generation at its transition from eternal youth to unchained adulthood.

​“Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere!” Bowie crooned, adding a line that Turner and his chosen one may be singing soon: “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years!”

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