Romance by remote

Geraldine Haldner

He is handsome and tall with dark curly hair and bright blue eyes; he writes and recites poetry and paints; and his shyness and sensitivity has garnered him a spot in the hearts of thousands of young women from British Columbia to Florida.

He is Ryan Sutter, a Vail firefighter, a trained architect and a former pro-football player. He stands 6 feet tall, has a smile that melts steel and – according to nationwide surveys and polls – he is the clear front-runner with as many as 10 million viewers who have been tuning in every Wednesday for the last month to watch “The Bachelorette,” a reality romance television show on the ABC network.

A poll on ABC’s Web site shows Sutter leading the show’s other finalist, Charlie, a 28-year-old account executive from California, by 30 percent.

In Touch magazine – a People magazine rival – labels Sutter, 28 as “sweet, direct, honest and sincere” – all qualities that make him the magazine’s readers’ top pick for Trista Rehn, the show’s star, who is scheduled to pick a mate, possibly even a husband, during the show’s final segment Feb. 19.

“Mail by the

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sack-full’, a Vail-based Web site, designed by Vail Resorts’ online marketing department, is seeing an average of 8,000 visitors a day – most of them going to a page featuring a question-and-answer column by Sutter.

It is little surprise that Sutter’s clean looks and apparently blemish-free character have struck a chord with single, young women across the nation. They are rooting for Sutter, and at the same time hoping he won’t be Rehn’s choice for a spouse.

“He gets mail by the sack-ful,” says Sutter’s supervisor, Captain Jim Spell. “How bad has it been? Well let’s see: It’s 11 in the morning and I’ve gotten probably 50 calls so far – all for Ryan.”

Neither Spell nor any of the other firefighters seem to mind the avalanche of gifts and inquiries. They remain protective of Sutter but they also tease him, keeping a chart of the stupid things he says during the show and flipping a sign on the fire truck announcing if Sutter is on or off duty.

The attention is entertaining, says Spell.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us,” he says. “We don’t open his mail but we look at the pictures and eat from the packages, once he has gone through them.”


“I’m probably not the first to write to you about Ryan Sutter,” writes Renee, a 24-year-old student from Ottawa via e-mail. “I am huge fan of him and every week I pray that the Bachelorette will not pick Ryan because he is too sweet for her. My heart dropped when I saw how hard he tried to impress her.”

Renee is one woman under 30 who would do everything from baking and sending cookies to e-mailing pictures of themselves, or calling the Vail Fire Station long-distance – all for a personal moment with Sutter.


“The thing that makes him so attractive is his personality, he seems to be very sweet and a real person,” says Heather, a 24-year-old medical biller from Kansas City, who has brown hair, blue eyes and describes herself as “kinda short” at 5 feet, 3 inches.

Her letter to Ryan is only a few paragraphs long, but at the end she offers up her phone number. She ends her letter by saying “I would really like to meet Ryan.”


“It is his sensitive side and his willingness to try new things. His athleticism, his family values and his love for the outdoors. Those are the big points that attract me to him,” writes Beth, a 21-year-old part-time ranch hand and aspiring paramedic from Pennsylvania.


April, a 23-year-old financial advisor from Victoria, British Columbia, is tall and thin. A former model, she backs her claim with professional shots that show a very attractive brunette.

“Ryan has demonstrated many characteristics that appeal to me,” she writes. “He is intelligent, sensitive and funny … not to mention gorgeous.”

Sutter, she writes, would be attracted to her because she is independent, motivated and has a good sense of humor.

“I consider myself a good judge of character and I’m thankful that Ryan took the chance of going on “The Bachelorette,’ as it gave me an opportunity to get know him.”


Jennilynn Hietala, a 21-year-old graduate student in Interpersonal and media communication at Sheridan College in Toronto, Canada, has been following “The Bachelorette” for her master’s thesis.

She says she isn’t surprised by the “intimacy phenomenon” that seems to connect these women to Sutter.

“Ryan is being portrayed as the sweet, sincere, fun guy,” she says. “We never see him hang out with the guys, drinking one too many beers or fighting with one of the other guys over the dog or something.”


“I’m a good person with a big heart,” says Michelle, a 27-year-old supervisor at a credit reporting company in New York City. “I can’t seem to find someone who appreciates everything I do. I try very hard to please who I am with; and it’s nice to be noticed and appreciated for that.”


Heather’s last relationship ended with her broken-hearted.

“The last relationship I had was with my daughter’s dad. We broke up two months after she was born. He cheated on me the entire time I was pregnant. He left shortly thereafter. And it has just been her and I ever since.”

Back from reality

Sutter himself says, he is looking forward for the show ending and hopes that, regardless of the outcome, the attention level will drop once his 15-minutes of fame on reality TV have expired. He says, even if offered, he would not be the next bachelor on another “The Bachelor” show. His reason offers testimony to how “real” romance on reality TV can be.

“I’m personally not capable of it. I would pick out a girl from the first 15 and focus on her. I wouldn’t be able to separate my emotions from the show’s rules,” he says.

Sutter says he won’t repeat his appearance on “The Bachelorette.”

“No way. I had no idea how this would be,” he says. “I don’t regret it, but given the choice I would not repeat this.”

And he won’t need to. Even if he doesn’t have a Valentine today – he is obligated to remain single and secretive about the show’s outcome until the final installment – Sutter has enough female admirers to last him a lifetime, either to find the right one among them or write back to everyone one of them.

He is making no promises.

“I’m thinking of going away for a little while,” he says. “It is all getting to be a bit much.”

Geraldine Haldner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at

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