Don't Touch That Dial!

Maria Staub is determined to make Teen Live Wire a hit radio show -- even if it destroys her family

"My vision is to be a complete resource for teen issues," she says after taking a sip of Evian. "If parents don't understand teens, they can call us and we can refer them to the proper agency. I'd also like people to really talk about [the show] and say that they look forward to it. For people to say that would be really satisfying. Then the money and the advertising will follow."

It seems strange, though, that someone so dedicated to teen issues would be so removed from the parenting of her own children. "I have a great relationship with my kids, even though I did not make breakfast [for them] and I did not do a lot of things [with them]," Staub says. "We spend time together. Not that much quality time, but now I spend more time with them than I used to because I'm not here every night."

Sabrina declined repeated requests for an interview, made through both Staub and Sabrina's aunt, Ruth Bachler. Bachler and her husband declined comment as well.

But don't they find it an unusual arrangement to be raising their sister-in-law's children? "Tell me about it," Ruth Bachler says dryly.

Werner Staub did not return several phone messages seeking an interview. Visited in person at the restaurant, where he greets diners as the maitre d', he declines to talk about either his wife or the money she has spent. "I am running a restaurant," he says politely, excusing himself. "I really have nothing to say about the radio program. All right?"

Maria Staub nearly solved her money problems this past state legislative session. Then-State Sen. Bill Turner agreed to sponsor a bill to give her program $300,000 in public money. The state House and Senate both approved the bill, but it died on the desk of Lawton Chiles. Although Governor Chiles supported the station, he didn't want money to be taken from the Department of Children and Families, as the legislature had decreed. Instead, he preferred that the funds come from the Department of Education, according to Staub, who is optimistic she can get the money during the next legislative season.

Other good signs: The new executive producer at Teen Live Wire, Joe Keener, is working out well. He's a former seminarian with a strong desire to help teenagers. Before joining up with Staub, Keener ran the Archdiocese of Miami's Radio Peace program, also on WAXY. "You hear her talk, you hear her dedication as she tries to win you with her vision," Keener says, "and you just feel all, all --" he shadowboxes an uppercut. "It pumps you up, you know?"

She has also hired a grant writer to help her obtain funding from corporations and foundations. To further that end, she formed a new, expanded board of directors. Major-league names such as retired banker Carlos Arboleya have already signed on. Other new board members have responded to the Herald article and to the television coverage of her radio program.

To improve listenership, she is scouting around for an FM station that might be interested in the show. So far none has shown an interest. Bob Lacey, the volunteer who helped launch the show, recently coordinated the shooting of a 60-second teaser for a Teen Live Wire television show. Staub has hired a media attorney to pitch the program to USA Broadcasting's WAMI-TV (Channel 69), to the new Pax TV family network, and to other outlets. She says she puts in at least 40 hours each week on the radio show.

"I just think there is a need for it," she stresses. "One day, when I really work toward the goal and I achieve with the program what I can achieve, it probably will make a difference. And this is what I want to do: Make a difference in some people's lives. I know I'm on the right track and I'm doing the right thing. And I have to. I have to finish this. I will not give up. If I have to go back to scrubbing floors, I will."

She's speaking from a table near the back of the restaurant. Werner flutters around the main entrance, greeting patrons with a thin smile. In August, after the reporting for this article was largely completed, Werner sued Maria for divorce. They've been married for eighteen years. Their two teenage children will continue to be raised by their aunt Ruth. Maria Staub will live alone in Miami's Venetia Condominium, just north of the Herald building. She has set up the Teen Live Wire offices in an adjacent apartment.

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