It’s early 2015, and on WXIA the camera cuts to the news desk after a particularly moving feature. The piece is so poignant, in fact, that Vinnie Politan – a host on the show – seemingly struggles to keep his emotions in check. And as the anchor visibly begins to break down, his colleagues and viewers alike are equally touched. But just what is it about the reported story that has affected him so strongly?
After all, Politan just cannot rein in his reactions to the moving tale; the anchorman is clearly completely overcome. And all of his colleagues are a little emotional too. So what is going on? Because Politan is no rookie; he’s been in the profession for a number of years.
That being said, however, Politan had at first pursued a career in law. You see, he was born Vincent Politan in New Jersey, and his father, Nicholas H. Politan, had served as a judge. So it’s likely that he had an understanding of life working in the legal field from a young age.
Politan was evidently taken with the idea of following in his father’s footsteps too. And after Politan moved to Stanford for his college years and graduated with a bachelor’s in Communication, he attained a further degree from New Jersey’s Seton Hall School of Law. Completing his studies here then enabled Politan to enter his chosen line of employment.
From there, Politan subsequently landed various legal jobs, including positions such as in-house counsel and prosecutor. The future anchorman then apparently had a change of heart, however, and seemingly chose to direct his energies toward another field. And that’s when he entered the entertainment business and eventually became the broadcaster who ended up hitting the headlines in 2015.
Politan’s first gig fronting a show came way back in 1997, though, when he was a correspondent for Time Warner Cable News. And after a few years there, the newsman moved onto News 13 Orlando before switching again to Sirius XM. It was actually at this last job that Politan enjoyed his longest stint so far, keeping busy hosting a couple of shows on two different channels.
One of these was the Court TV Channel. And it was here that Politan seemed to really find his calling, as he subsequently spent more than a decade at the network. The role allowed him to combine his background in both law and journalism, too, and provided the opportunity for him to cover some of America’s most high-profile cases.
It appears, in fact, that Politan continued to carve out somewhat of a niche for his talents in this arena. And in addition to Court TV, Politan worked as a host for HLN as well. So it seems that presenting proved to be a profession that rather suited his personality.
After years in the industry, then, Politan was eventually given a shot at creating his own television series. This was HLN After Dark, and the show certainly played to his strengths. Indeed, HLN After Dark re-enacted events from crime scenes and made use of on-set juries. And following these successes at HLN, in 2014 Politan was picked to join the team at WXIA.
This hardened journalist was no stranger to difficult subject matter, then. But it seems that Politan met his match not in the courtroom or while being heckled by an audience member. No, in fact, it was covering a seemingly innocuous WXIA weekday news item that led him to lose his composure on air. And it was all because of a little old woman.
Not that the lady was an adversary or a criminal, mind you. Nonetheless, the woman apparently stirred up emotions from deep within Politan. But why did these feelings emerge? Well, it seems that the retiree in the bulletin actually reminded the veteran reporter of someone he knew personally.
Unsurprisingly, then, Politan’s subsequent efforts to collect himself while on live TV gained so much traction that other news outlets covered the incident. For example, on February 12, 2015, USA TODAY was among those to pick up the story. And its coverage reveals exactly what caused Politan’s breakdown. Yes, the touching clip features an elderly individual called Rosemary Bauer, who at the time of filming is almost a centenarian and resides at A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab – a facility located in the state of Georgia.
So Bauer is one of the video’s stars, and it’s obvious that the nonagenarian has a busy schedule. The footage shows a whiteboard, after all, and on the agenda for January 20, 2015, there is worshiping in the afternoon and then bingo in the evening. Probably a normal Tuesday in the home, then.
But during the footage, Bauer goes through a music-therapy session in her bedroom with John Abel, who’s a practitioner of Music & Memory. This is a scheme that attempts to help the elderly and the infirm through music – and Bauer seems an ideal recipient. After all, having lived for almost 100 years, she’s definitely witnessed many musical periods, not to mention changes in styles and popular tastes. So Bauer is therefore likely to have a rich musical heritage.
And Bauer actually used to teach an instrument herself: the piano. So the whole point of this therapeutic process is to play music that will remind Bauer of her past. Indeed, the voice-over in the video states, “She’s not learning new skills; she’s recovering old memories.”
Music & Memory’s website claims that “the results can be nothing short of miraculous,” and in the video footage the therapy truly seems to work wonders. For example, owing to the song Bauer hears from the comfort of her wheelchair, she manages to recall her old piano teacher. Talking of her mentor, the 99-year-old says, “She was a miracle. Music is part of your soul.” Bauer’s statement goes to show how strong the connection with music can sometimes be – and how beneficial for the receiver too.
Bauer obviously appreciates the technique as well. Wearing her headphones and smiling, she even appears to be transported to an earlier period of her lifetime. And these memories aren’t just restricted to her former profession, either; key moments from her personal life seemingly also flash back to her. At one point, Bauer says, “That’s where I met my husband.” Bauer’s words then prompt a chuckle from music therapist Abel.
But how precisely does the practice work? “Singing songs from their youth brings back very fond memories,” Abel says. In fact, he uses the process to get through to those patients who may have their cognitive functions impaired through old age or disease. He then goes on to explain that “music memories last longer than other memories.”
This assertion appears especially true for a certain woman staying at the rehabilitation center, in fact. Her name isn’t known, but she has a daughter who visits named Linda Mabry. Due to her mom’s dementia, though, Mabry finds it impossible to communicate with her aging parent. Yet music therapy nonetheless works wonders. As the narrator says, “For some, music is all that remains… the music brings her back in fleeting, achingly poignant moments.”
Residents and other recipients of the music-therapy program gathered in the Eventide Room seem to benefit greatly from the group sessions too. And although the music is mentally stimulating, it isn’t only memories that Abel is trying to tap into. That’s right: he aims to help them use their muscles as well.
“We’re gonna start this morning with our exercise song,” Abel says. He gets the participants clapping along with his guitar, and the ditty ends with a round of applause. Arguably, then, the music helps the residents’ mental and physical wellbeing. As the narrator explains, “Collectively, they are youngsters despite bodies that struggle.”
In fact, when Abel plays “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” which was initially a hit in the first half of the 20th century, several residents proceed to sing and harmonize in a rousing chorus. Some even appear to regress, as the melody transports them back to their childhoods. And the narrator chimes in, “When most of our experiences are behind us, it is the gift of looking back.”
Then, back in the studio, it’s the turn of the news anchors to round the segment up. Their usual task is to simply summarize the presentation with a few choice words. And the anchorwoman seated in the middle of the four anchors begins to do just that. She says, “As you can see the music helps these seniors move better, walk further and feel happier.” Meanwhile, the other woman sat at the desk murmurs her agreement.
And it’s at this stage that Politan chimes in with his own thoughts on the subject. “Good stuff, amazing, because music is the soundtrack of our lives,” he says. Then, however, after a few murmurs, words fails him. What’s more, Politan thumps his clenched fists down on the table and rests his head on his hand.
The colleague of Politan who’d spoken first then places a reassuring hand on his arm and through his sniffing says, “I totally agree, I totally agree – such a sweet, sweet story.” And as the camera pans away, the female colleague on Politan’s other side gives his back a supportive rub and looks at the lens.
Next, the video – which has attracted in excess of two million views to date on YouTube – skips straight to a later moment in the broadcast, presumably skimming over the commercials that live viewers would have originally seen. And perhaps this evident break in the show was actually necessitated by Politan’s failure to control himself.
The presenters are still there, though, and it falls to the blonde female anchor to address the powerful moment that occurred prior to the commercial break. “So in our last blackout, we did this story about music and seniors,” she says. “And we all had an emotional reaction to it, because we all love older people in our lives.”
Yet the otherwise cold, professional look of the studio newsroom and the composure of the other anchors only serve to highlight Politan’s extreme reaction. After all, it’s not at all common for a seasoned presenter to be visibly floored. The anchor who’d addressed the matter moments before then asks Politan, “Is this about your dad?”
Politan immediately says that one of his family members had indeed sprung to mind. And having clearly been touched by the story, the anchor continues to talk about his dear dad. This time, however, he’s successful in getting his words out. He says, “Yeah, I mean, music was such a big part of his life. And seeing the memories that these folks had… struck a chord.”
So, it was memories of his father that prompted the younger Politan’s emotions to rise to the fore. A decade after his retirement, you see, Nicholas H. Politan had sadly passed on in 2012. But the federal judge must have been a fan of music. As his son says, “It’s powerful stuff, and it’s great to see how it was helping.”
Politan’s reaction naturally drew a response online too. For example, a commenter writing under the alias BumperMorgan showed solidarity for Politan and remarked, “I’ll bet the gentleman who cried was embarrassed. He shouldn’t be in the slightest, but we’re not cool with men crying in our society. I feel for the guy. It’s hard to watch those we love grow old and lose parts of themselves.”
Returning to the video footage, though, it’s left to the same woman to finally fashion a conclusion for the segment. “I think music becomes even more important the older we get,” she says. “Because it takes you back to those seminal moments in your life of such happiness.” And she’s certainly not alone in her sentiment.
Indeed, in 2018 The New Yorker published an article by Larissa MacFarquhar about nursing facilities “using nostalgic environments as a means of soothing the misery, panic and rage their residents experience.” And music, naturally, featured in the piece. According to the article, then, it seems that when tuning into familiar songs “some people with dementia who can no longer speak can still find the words to sing.”
Elsewhere, a blog post published on the A.G. Rhodes website in January 2019 sang the praises of using such evocative therapy techniques to aid those living with neurological disorders. Simply put, the care home noted, “This novel approach may allow a patient to reconnect on an emotional level with happy memories.”
The post continued, “For seniors who enjoy hearing a favorite tune, this activity may offer a welcome diversion.” So whether allowing a daily distraction or being a method to divert depressive thinking, the act of listening is overall doubtless highly rewarding, according to the home.
Another factor in favor of the therapy, meanwhile, is its affordability. Thankfully, you see, the costs are relatively low. In addition, there’s no “significant commitment of time and resources” that would entail making sacrifices in other areas. And it seems that just one man or a radio can keep a room full of residents entertained. A.G. Rhodes is therefore evidently keen to promote the initiative in care facilities elsewhere.
Lastly, due to the widespread availability of portable media players in this day and age, suitable tracks can be accessed very easily. And A.G. Rhodes’ project takes full advantage of this abundance of audio delights in order to support their senior citizens. Enjoying a wealth of tunes is surely a huge blessing for listeners with limited mobility, after all.
The general population can get involved with the project, too, thanks to Music & Memory’s donation strategy. So anyone who wants to pitch in and has some spare Apple products lying around can donate these to people such as Bauer and her fellow residents at A.G. Rhodes. Like the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and this is the perfect way to make sure that any retired iPods aren’t languishing unused in someone’s bottom drawer.
As for Politan, his career has seen him go from cable to online content. Nowadays, then, he’s forging firmly ahead as a broadcaster and legal expert. And he appears to have cornered the market in offering “a look at Lady Justice like you have never seen before,” as Politan’s current YouTube channel puts it.
Politan remains prolific in his work too. According to his channel’s description, he puts out a podcast every day, in fact, so his thousands of followers can readily access his hard-hitting opinions on all things legal. Nevertheless, viewers can be safe in the knowledge that, at heart, he’s a real softie.