By sharp contrast to the young cads with sixpack abs previously populating the hot tubs on ABC’s The Bachelor, Gerry Turner, the handsome, 72-year-old star of The Golden Bachelor spinoff, brought fresh air and life to the franchise with something rarely seen on reality TV: genuine depth and sensitivity.

Still a grieving widower, Gerry (pronounced Gairy) cried real tears during the opening episode when he recounted the story of Toni, his beloved wife of 43 years, who tragically died of an infection just one month after their move to their “dream” retirement house on Big Long Lake in Hudson, Indiana (pop. 537). 

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It was a dramatic backstory. But our bachelor was able to switch gears and interact easily with the attractive — and equally senior — female contestants on the show. In doing so, he displayed such emotional awareness, authenticity and willingness to listen that his whole persona seemed to have been cooked up in some Perfect Man lab.

The “ladies” — as they’re called on the program — quickly started to swoon and declare their love for him and, let’s face it, we all fell for Ger. Evidently, the world also saw that magic while watching Golden Gerry and the women. The premiere earned the highest multiplatform rating for The Bachelor franchise since 2021, with a combined 13.9 million viewers. It also set a streaming record as ABC’s most watched episode of an unscripted series ever on Hulu after 35 days of viewing, according to ABC.

The idea that this guileless man was reawakening before our eyes to contemporary life — “I mean, I haven’t dated in 45 years,” he told Entertainment Tonight — made him a hugely compelling character. He seemed so wholesome and almost preacherly that, on The Daily Show, comedian Lewis Black joked, “This guy is like if the word ‘Gee Willikers’ became a person.” 

But even in this Golden variation, this is, at bottom, a reality show, a genre mostly known for its frequent disconnection with reality.

Recently, Turner appeared on Justin Long’s Life Is Short podcast and told the host about the elaborate screening process he was subjected to: “I had to send my fingerprints to the FBI, there were numerous background tests. There was a psychological evaluation that was like 360 questions and then another hour of interview,” he said. “The vetting process is ridiculously thorough.”

But despite this vetting, The Hollywood Reporter has discovered several inconsistencies regarding both his work history and recent romantic entanglements that contradict the received narrative. 

Whether they never learned about these discrepancies or ignored them to sell a buffed-up, shinier storyline for greater impact, producers presented an incomplete and misleading image of Turner, which the bachelor helped perpetuate in personal remarks.

He’s identified in chyrons throughout the show as a “retired restaurateur,” which is a fancy way to say he owns or owned a restaurant, with all of its attendant fun and glamour. 

But according to his profile on LinkedIn, Gerry last owned a restaurant in 1985, when he sold his Mr. Quick hamburger drive-in franchise in Iowa, where he’d worked his way up from high school.

After that, he held various sales and management positions in the meat business, again per his LinkedIn résumé, which does not list an end date for his employment. 

That does not match up with the idea pushed on the show, that he retired at the young age of 55, which would have been in 2006. Never mentioned are his years of pick-up “post-retirement” work, like installing hot tubs at Gannon Pools near Davenport, Iowa (as confirmed by owner Kerry Gannon). He then worked as a maintenance man at the Vera French Mental Health Center, also in the Davenport area, as verified by his colleagues, who spoke highly of him.

It was in the latter capacity that he would come to know a woman (we’ll call her Carolyn) with whom he would go on to have a nearly three-year relationship, beginning innocently enough a month after his wife’s death. Attractive and 14 years his junior, she was a staff accountant at the mental health center. They dated for 10 months, and then lived together for one year and nine months. This account is drawn from interviews with Carolyn (who requested not to be named to protect her privacy), as well as friends she confided in at the time and text messages with Gerry, among other documents. 

The fact that he started dating is not unexpected. He was single and a widower, after all, not cheating. But his amorous activity certainly didn’t align with how he regularly yanked viewers’ heartstrings with on-air announcements about his lack of a love life since his wife died. (He later touchingly admitted to one pre-show kiss on The Bachelor Happy Hour podcast.)

Carolyn apparently wasn’t the only relationship he and the Golden Bachelor producers failed to mention. This fall, a reporter from the U.S. Sun reached out to Heather, a waitress at The Shady Nook, a bar and restaurant located on the lake in Hudson, Indiana, next door to Gerry’s new lake house, so close that he’d essentially made it his bachelor clubhouse. 

Heather Lanning-Adams, who no longer works at the Shady Nook, considered Gerry her friend. She told the reporter that in the past six years, “He dated a couple of women. They weren’t all long-term, but they … weren’t short-term either. … He was with a couple of women for a decent amount of time, but it just didn’t work out.”

Carolyn, meanwhile, didn’t want the years of her life as the Golden Bachelor’s girlfriend to become national news fodder. But neither did she want to be the “invisible woman,” whispered about in Davenport as the gullible gal Gerry duped and then dumped. 

“I just can’t believe this has happened to my girlfriend,” said Susan McCreary, a close friend of Carolyn’s. 

“When Carolyn and Gerry first started dating [in September 2017], my husband and I took them to an Iowa [Hawkeyes] football game,” Susan said. “I thought, ‘This guy’s legit. This guy’s a really good guy for her.’”

McCreary recalled watching the show and hearing Gerry say that line about not having been kissed in six years. “And I’m like, what? He’s got to know that people are paying attention to this show. I’m just flabbergasted.”

(ABC and Turner declined to comment for this article.)

At first, Carolyn tried to laugh it off. But then The Golden Bachelor became a ratings bonanza. The show was suddenly the talk of pop culture, considered a breakthrough for its positive portrayal of sexually active seniors.

It bothered Carolyn that her ex was foisting lines and moves on the bachelorettes that he had used to seduce her. 

“Damn, I go to bed at night thinking of you and wake up in the morning thinking of you,” he had texted Carolyn on Sept. 2, 2017, less than three months after Toni’s death, in a message viewed by THR

He would go on to say something similar to Leslie, the fitness instructor/dancer/ex-squeeze of Prince who became one of Gerry’s two finalists. During one of their intense sessions in Costa Rica, he told her, “I have to have you with my morning coffee, I have to have you when I go to bed at night …”  

Carolyn became friends with Gerry at the mental health community in Davenport, where he was beloved by co-workers and patients alike. (Apparently, he was great at conflict resolution.) Carolyn and the staff threw him a retirement party when he left to move to the lake with Toni.

“Then, we get the shocking news that Toni passed away, so most everyone at the office went to the visitation in July,” said Carolyn. 

“Then, in August, I got a phone call from Gerry,” she said. “I was so shocked to hear from him.” 

On that call, Gerry said he was coming to Davenport to work on his wife’s estate and asked whether Carolyn could help him with donating Toni’s corporate wardrobe to Dress for Success. 

She was happy to help. Gerry took her to dinner after as a thank you. 

“The idea that I’d go out with a recent widower just mortifies me,” Carolyn now says. “I just really didn’t see it. Until I went back and looked at my text messages, I never realized Gerry’s texts had turned hot and heavy so relatively soon.”

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.”

Gerry persisted in asking her to move in with him at the lake house for almost a year before Carolyn would even consider it. 

Eventually, Carolyn fell hard, driving five hours to spend what she remembers as blissful weekends with Gerry at his dream house on Big Long Lake. 

After a year of such weekends, she finally agreed to move in with him. But before she gave up her settled life in Iowa, she says, Gerry promised her elderly mom that he intended eventually to marry Carolyn. 

She tells THR that he suggested she quit her job and get a new one near the lake house. This proved impossible, since it’s “in the middle of nowhere,” as she put it, but she did get an accounting job with a company in Fort Wayne, nearly an hour’s commute each way. 

She arrived the last weekend of July 2018. (THR has viewed mail that was sent to her at his house, and a background check listed his address as her primary residence for that period.) Then, the surprises started. Gerry told Carolyn that her share of the expenses would be about $1,000 a month, which Carolyn negotiated down to $850. They would go Dutch on all meals except on special occasions, she remembers him telling her. At restaurants, Carolyn paid her half in advance, and then when the check came, Gerry paid the whole tab, like the big man. 

They agreed Gerry was fastidious about cleanliness. In the mornings, she says, Gerry insisted that Carolyn make the bed before she come upstairs for breakfast. 

But Carolyn’s Big Long Lake idyll with Gerry was about to end.

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. 

It was the dead of winter, and Carolyn struggled to get to her car in her walker, Gerry at her side, as she recalls. She might have been any one of the roseless Golden Bachelorettes, told by a suddenly somber Jesse Palmer to “take a minute and gather your things.”

“I really wish this would’ve worked out,” she remembers him telling her. “Call me when you get to your hotel, so I know you made it safe.”

Carolyn shared her account of the tumultuous breakup with friends and relatives, who confirmed this to THR

Three years have since passed. In the sneak peek for the program’s finale, which airs Nov. 30, Gerry is shown sobbing about his tough decision. He’d chosen to spend one night each with finalists Leslie Fhima and Theresa Nist, back-to-back in the fantasy suites, and separately told each that she was “the one.”  

By now, the gold dust was falling away. Gerry was fitting more into the typical Bachelor profile. He appears distraught on camera: “The only time I’ve felt this bad in my life is when my wife died, and this is a goddamn close second.” 

Later he blubbered, “I took a really good person and broke her heart.”

True. But for Gerry, that should be getting easier with experience.