At first glance, Joanne Hauncher and Sandy Miracle-Jones do not seem like typical reality TV stars.
Both over the age of 60, the senior citizens count golf and charity work among their many hobbies and call the sprawling Sun City Grand retirement village in blazing hot Surprise, Arizona, home. Look a little closer, though, and golden girls Hauncher and Miracle-Jones are just as bawdy and ready to party as any Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant.
The pastimes of Hauncher, a married, 63-year-old retired real estate agent, and Miracle-Jones, a 68-year-old widow who recently began dating again, also include downing glasses of vino and practising their gun skills. The women star alongside a handful of other Sun City Grand residents in WEtv’s Sunset Daze, which premiered last Wednesday night on the WEtv network.
While this is not the first time senior citizens have received the reality TV treatment – 72-year-old retired Navy SEAL team leader Rudy Boesch outwitted, outplayed and outlasted almost all of the youngsters on the first season of Survivor – the salacious promos for Sunset Daze promised an unprecedented eye-popping, jaw-dropping view of the golden years.
In the first five minutes of the premiere episode alone, an elderly couple canoodle in a hot tub, several seniors guzzle wine and Miracle-Jones boasts about her “battery-operated boyfriend”. However, the rest of the debut is more subdued, with Hauncher and her gal pals setting up Miracle-Jones on a series of blind dates with eligible bachelors.
The saucy Hauncher and saucier Miracle-Jones are ready for their reality TV close-up. In a recent phone interview, the ladies, who were friends before being cast on the docu-reality series, discussed auditioning for the show, working a stripper pole for the first time and being compared to those hard-partying twentysomethings from MTV’s Jersey Shore.
How were you selected to be on the show?
Miracle-Jones: It was all about being at the right place at the right time. We were hanging out at our favourite place just having a Pinot Grigio, and someone approached us and wanted to interview us, and we said sure. As a result of that interview, I was one of the people they picked. I thought to myself, “Why not? I’m retired. Every day is a Saturday.”
How did the two of you become friends?
Hauncher: I’ve known Sandy ever since she moved down here, which has been about four or five years. Sandy is a widow. She came in one day and was just sitting there by herself, so me and my girlfriends said, “Why don’t you just pull up a chair and come on over and talk to us?” Bingo. That’s how the friendship started. We just started hanging out together.
In the first episode, you visit a shooting range. Is that something you normally do in your real lives?
Hauncher: We belong to a gun club in Michigan, so that wasn’t foreign to me, but there’s a lot of things we did in the show that were foreign to me. I have never pole danced in my life. I didn’t even know what it was. It’s not easy. You have to have a little bit more acrobatic know-how than I do. I tried it. I was not successful. My husband just laughed at me.
What does the Sun City Grand community think about the show?
Miracle-Jones: I think a lot of people are as excited about it as much as we are, but there are probably a few of them going, “Hmmm”. … I know me, personally, and some of the other members of the cast have had people approach us and ask, “How can we be a part of this?” So I think they’re pretty supportive of it.
How do you feel about how folks from your generation have been portrayed?
Hauncher: When we moved here, some people said they were bored. I have not found that to be true, but it’s not all fun, fun, fun. At our age, there are people, Sandy being one of them, who all of a sudden, a child comes back and lives with you. Being a senior citizen is not without its challenges, be it issues with alcohol or drugs or being handicapped.
What do you think about the comparisons between ‘Sunset Daze’ and ‘Jersey Shore’?
Miracle-Jones: When people compare us to Jersey Shore, all I have to say is, “What a nice compliment. Thank you very much”. To be compared to twentysomethings, what’s not to like about that? I don’t think we’re as crazy as they are, but we’re not dead either. We have a lot to look forward to, and I think that most of us want to make the most of it.