Viewers of The Golden Bachelor are still waiting to see who will be the recipient of Gerry Turner’s final rose, but you could argue the show’s best love story didn’t even involve the 72-year-old grandfather from Indiana.
Instead, it was among the women, and specifically, Kathy “Zip It!” Swarts and Susan “Kris Jenner” Noles.
“We came looking for love, but we left with so much more,” Kathy tells Glamour. “We left with friendships.”
It’s not hyperbole, either. On our joint Zoom with the two fan favorites, they complete each other’s sentences and aren’t afraid to poke fun and tease one another. They talk about the affection and love that they feel for one another, and the joy with finding a new friendship later in life. They speak daily, and have already planned a warm-weather vacation in January with April and Nancy, a.k.a. the other half of the ASKN ladies.
“I feel so strong now,” Kathy, 70, says after her time on The Golden Bachelor. “We are sixty and above, and we are vibrant and relevant and have things to say. We’re not invisible.”
“This was the most fabulous experience ever,” adds Susan, 66. “It wasn’t just about us being on a TV show. We still have so much life in us, and that’s what I want everybody out there to realize. Get up and do whatever the hell you want to do.”
What they want to do is reimagine The Golden Girls for 2023 in the form of an unscripted series (with Nancy and April, of course) to continue showing what it means to thrive in your sixties and seventies. And based on the success of Golden Bach, ABC would be crazy to not at least explore the idea. But for now, what we really want to know is what the hairstylist/wedding officiant/meatball expert (Susan) and retired educational consultant/Zip it-lady/Caitlyn Jenner doppelgänger (Kathy) thinks of Theresa in the final three, their journey with Gerry, and why Susan’s Never Have I Ever admission wasn’t quite what everyone assumed. Read on.
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Glamour: Why do you think you both bonded so much?
Susan Noles: We were like blood sisters from the moment we said hi. I think it was laughter.
Kathy Swarts: I think we were both born to the same mother in a different lifetime. We just laugh at the same things, and see things the same way.
Susan: And we’re both very caring people with big hearts. We’re funny.
Kathy: Zip it, Susan!
We’ll get to that in a minute! But Susan, as I was watching the last episode, it felt like the other women needed Gerry, whereas you were taking the opposite approach. Did you go in with any sort of ‘strategy’ to not get too caught up unless it was reciprocated?
Susan: I went in because I truly want to fall in love with someone, and that was my hope. After being there and getting to know him, we definitely landed on the best friend page. He confided in me, we shared things, I made him laugh, and I was comfortable with that. I really was. I was falling in love with all those women on there, and making such good friends, including him. So I think that’s why I felt okay in the end.
Kathy: I really think the friendships were what made the experience for me.
I’d love to see a show with you both, or Nancy and April as well—the ASKN group. Would you be open to that?
Susan: We’re thinking a spinoff of the modern day Golden Girls. But it will be the modern day ASKN girls—April, Susan, Kathy and Nancy.
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Have you decided which one of the Golden Girls you are?
Susan: I can flop around I think.
Kathy: I’m pretty much Dorothy. Although I am a caring person, I have the dry wit and come out with the one-liners, like her.
Susan: And Nancy is definitely Betty White’s [Rose].
And April is so Blanche.
Kathy: There is no question. April wrote the book on being Blanche.
Susan: And I am?
Kathy: You’re a bit of everything.
Susan, you have the kindness of Rose, but the intelligence of Dorothy with the nurturing of Sophia through her cooking. There’s a mix of everybody.
Susan: You have not seen my flirty side yet!
True! We need that. Meanwhile, Kathy, you’ve been through so much heartache and loss, and yet there is such a spark to you. How did you pull yourself out of those dark places?
Kathy: I think there’s something inside of me that you can’t keep down. It’s who I am. Yes, I’ve been through hard things, but lots of people go through hard things, and it makes your life richer. It has made me a more caring person, more empathetic. I just realize how precious life is.
Susan: Kathy, you have the biggest heart. I know all the stuff that’s out there that people see from TV, but you are now one of my closest, dearest friends. This woman worries about me because when I was sick [recently], she made sure I was taking my medicine. She’s got a heart. I also believe time helped her [through her previous heartache].
Kathy: Time helps, and I had good counseling. My husband died by suicide [Editors note: Gerry knew this, but their conversation did not air], and that is a devastating loss. My husband and I were married almost 46 years, and that was really tough. So good therapy, time, friends, family, my children [helped]. I couldn’t have done it without their support, I just couldn’t have.
Many people have come up to me to say that everyone on the show has given them hope, whether they are going through a sickness or illness or heartbreak. That makes my heart sing. Those are the best comments. Women and men over 60, they go through so many life changes, and we need to talk about it. We need to give women and men who are our age, hope and strength to be who they are and live their life.
I previously asked Gerry if any former love interests from his past reached out to him because of the show and he said yes. Has anyone reached out from your past to reconnect?
Susan: Yes, a couple of them from my teenage years wished me luck, and they text me every now and then to say they’re proud of me and I’m really my authentic self.
Kathy: I’ve had a few people reach out to ask me to come back to Massachusetts, which is where I grew up, for a mini reunion. But I haven’t had any guys from my high school years ask me out on a date, but maybe they’ll see this and reconsider! Who knows?
They should! You guys are hot and smart and have the biggest hearts.
Susan: And we have big personalities. And going back to the show, I, honestly, as I grew to know Gerry, felt as if he didn’t want such a big, strong personality. He looked for a more quiet, adoring kind of woman, like the women who are left. And I think that was his match.
Kathy: All you want for anyone in life is to find a second chance at love, and if Gerry has found that, then we’re all happy for him, whoever he’s with. That’s what we want. And we hope it will happen for us. I’m not giving up.
Susan: I wanted all the men that applied for [The Golden Bachelor] because they’ve already had background checks, so if we could just review those, we might find someone in there!
Kathy: You and I might fight over the same guy! But I do push-ups so I might win. [Laughs]
Let’s talk about the kind of woman Gerry is looking for, since you brought it up.
Kathy: Here’s what he should do, and I hope he’s listening: He should spend three months with each of those ladies [Faith, Leslie, and Theresa], and the other three months with the ASKN crew! What do you think? I don’t know how this ends up, but if it ends up being Theresa, I wish them a lifetime of happiness. Am I a little bit envious? Yes, because I want that second chance at love. But whoever he’s with, I couldn’t be happier for them.
So you weren’t shocked that Theresa is in the final three?
Kathy: No, and to Susan’s point, I think Theresa is certainly a lot quieter than Susan and I are. Theresa has a different demeanor, and I think Gerry likes that. So no, I wasn’t surprised at all.
Susan: The very first one-on-one date was with Theresa, and I watched it a few times, and they bonded about similar things that happened in their lives, and as well as with Faith and Leslie. So it makes sense.
Kathy: Wait a second, Susan, I have had a long marriage that Gerry had as well. I lost my husband. The problem is, he seems to like petite brunettes! And I’m 5’8! So that might have been a problem. But they do have a lot in common.
I personally thought Theresa overreacted with the “Zip it” comment when she relayed it to Gerry because you didn’t say it in quite that forceful and nasty tone.
Susan: She said “snip it!”
Right, she didn’t even say the phrase right when she recounted it to Gerry. But she just made the tone of the conversation with Kathy sound so much more dramatic than it was.
Kathy: He’s going to learn so much more about her and Leslie and Faith that really…whatever I said [doesn’t matter]. I hugged him at the Tell All, and I think he knows that I’m a genuinely nice person. I think it was a bigger issue that I was not a petite brunette than I said “Zip it.” And I can’t change that! I’m 5’8, I can’t help it!
Susan, let’s talk about Never Have I Ever. You took a scoop of ice cream when asked if you or anyone had a sexual encounter with another woman. Were people in your life surprised by that admission?
Susan: I didn’t hear the sexual part of the question when it was asked. So I thought, yeah, I kissed a girl when I was 18 and I liked it! It wasn’t a sexual experience. [But the response online] was awful [and homophobic]. My daughter got online [to explain] but I was like, just don’t even bother. She goes, “Mom, you kissed a girl way back.” But I wasn’t about to go online and tell each person. But everyone took off with that [narrative]. I now have my gay and lesbian backers, but I love everybody!
Kathy: We’re strong women. Honestly, I haven’t taken any of it seriously. I don’t care that they say I look like a man, or that I’m Caitlyn Jenner. It doesn’t bother me. Because I know who I am, and I am proud of who I am. And again, you want to compare me to Caitlyn Jenner? Compare away!
Susan: She takes it as a compliment. People just need to be kind.
Kathy: And if you can’t be kind, just don’t say anything!
Susan: My mother taught me, if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. But don’t get me wrong, I am from Philadelphia! I am 100% Italian, and if you hurt my people I love…
This is why I adore you both. You support each other so much. I will gladly watch an ASKN Girls reality show.
Kathy: Listen, we want it too! From our lips to your ears to whoever else is listening!
Susan: We have formed such a bond, we’re going to be out there. We’re going to have some sofa talk on the pink couch I’m sitting on.
Kathy: We all love each other and loved the experience. Life is good.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour senior West Coast editor and author of the NYT best-selling book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series.
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