Malibu Colony Resident Suzan Hughes

Malibu Colony Resident Suzan Hughes Reflects On The 4th of July Fireworks Show Tradition She Started In 1993

In 1993, Suzan Hughes and her longtime Husband, Mark Hughes, purchased Malibu Colony beach house, #34, located on one of the prized double beachfront lots in the legendary enclave. It was there that Suzan Hughes came up with an idea for an annual tradition that continues today. “I wanted to treat all of our wonderful neighbors to a spectacular fireworks show on the 4th of July,” said Hughes. Indeed, the fireworks show can be seen from miles away, from Surfrider Beach, and the surrounding hills. The tradition that Hughes started has become as legendary as the Colony itself.  

Journalist, playwright, editor, and Colony resident, Michele Willensreported on the glamorous history of The Colony in piece she wrote for The Daily Beast, “The Colony is one of the most famous miles in the world.” In the story, Willens recounts that Jane Fonda threw an infamous all-night party in the Colony, it is where Robert Redford saw a bundled up Mary Tyler Moore strolling the beach and decided right then and there to cast her in Ordinary People. Gloria Swanson allegedly entertained Joseph Kennedy at her secret hideaway. For over 80 years, celebrities and moguls have flocked to this beachfront, where they have held memorable parties, and written Oscar-winning scripts.  

Hughes says she was initially attracted to the Colony after learning about its legendary history, “The Colony has a fascinating historical pedigree,” said Hughes. In 1892, Frederick Hastings Rindge and his wife, May Knight Rindge, purchased the 13,330-acre Rancho Malibu tract for a mere $10 per acre. They later expanded their working cattle and grain ranch to 17,000 acres. The Rindge’s built a large home in Malibu Canyon, but it was ravaged by a brush fire in 1903. When her husband died just two years later, May Rindge assumed management of their Malibu real estate. She leased beachfront lots to some of the most prominent film stars of the day, including Clara Bow, Bing Crosby, Gloria Swanson, and Gary Cooper. Quaint seaside cottages were erected for the residents, and the area was quickly dubbed the “Malibu Movie Colony.” Once the Malibu Colony real estate leases expired, many of its famous residents opted to buy their homes. 

According to Willens, virtually every house in the Colony has a story within its stories. Peter Guber built an all-Japanese home when he was running Sony Pictures. Larry Hagman sold his adobe-style one to Sting. Woody Harrelson put up a teepee at #38 (whose previous tenants included Timothy Hutton and Bette Midler) for his well-attended parties. Liz and Dick rented for a while, Frank Capra had the Tom Hanks house at one time, virtually every rock star of the ’60s and ’70s partied in the Colony. Politics has also found a place in the Colony. Bobby Kennedy was at director John Frankenheimer’s home before heading to the Ambassador that June night in 1968. As for Hughes, she remains mum about her famous neighbors, “I love reading about the Colony’s storied history but I’d never reveal the names of current residents,” said Hughes, “We come to Malibu to find privacy and serenity.” 

As Malibu continues to rebuild from the devastating Woolsey Fire, residents are happy that the fireworks tradition continues. It is important to note that the show has always been staged from a barge in the ocean to ensure safety. In the end, tradition is a very powerful force that helps us recall fond memories and make new ones. On this 4th of July, we honor Suzan Hughes for starting the annual fireworks show in the Colony, a tradition and will continue to bring friends and family together and forge fond memories for years to come, “It feels great to contribute something meaningful to the community,” said Hughes who has given millions of dollars to charity over the years and recently launched The Suzan Hughes Education Foundation. Find out more about Suzan Hughes at

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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