Exclusive Interview: Malibu Sue

Here is another Home Exclusive Interview, this time with New York radio legend Malibu Sue! We caught up with Malibu Sue to discuss her history with Depeche Mode, her work in alternative radio, and much more.

You’ve recently made an appearance on a second home video of Depeche Mode’s; in the short film Depeche Mode: 1987-88 (Sometimes You Do Need Some New Jokes) on the Music For The Masses re-issue. They included the footage from Depeche Mode 101 where you announced the Malibu nightclub auditions for the documentary on-air at the now-defunct 92.7 WDRE-FM. Did management re-clear the footage with you, and if so, how did you feel about being included in this new documentary?

No actually they didn’t clear it with me prior but I am delighted to be included regardless. Can’t help but wish they had chosen to use some other footage that was taken with me — just to ‘change it up a bit’ ya know? (D.A. Pennabaker followed me around with cameras for hours!)

Malibu Sue from Depeche Mode 101

Depeche Mode 101 is somewhat sacred to DM fans around the world. How did you feel about being included in the documentary?

I was thrilled. The footage they got (and used) was due to my getting a bit ‘done’ with the camera following me — and they all thought it was funny! (If you’ve seen 101, you know what I am talking about.)The band also talked about my part during press/TV interviews, which was sweet since my part turned out to be so small. They referred to me as ‘their friend Malibu Sue’ who helped promote the ‘casting’ of the movie, so that was quite flattering. They also sent me a poster of the movie which they signed ‘To the Star of our movie, Malibu Sue.’

Do you have any special memories of the process of the making of the film, the auditions or any screenings that you’d like to share?

Oh yes! We had a screening of the movie with listeners [of WDRE-FM] who won the chance to be there and the guys in the band gave me a round of cheers when I welcomed everyone to the theater. (They were in a back row!)

There was an after screening party in a NYC club. (Side note: Malcolm Forbes pulled up on a motorcycle just as friends and I were entering the club! Who knew he was so hip?) They had sectioned-off a VIP area with a velvet rope for the band and other industry luminaries (such as Seymour Stein of Sire Records), and I had no credentials on me. When Dave spotted me, he ran over to where I was outside the rope, reached over and scooped me up – princess-carry style – in his arms and carried me over the rope saying, “Malibu Sue! You belong over here with us!” Talk about being swept off your feet!!!

You are a fixture of the New York-area radio landscape. When did you begin working at WLIR-FM (the station was also known for several years as WDRE-FM) and what’s your favorite story (not necessarily Depeche-related)?

I began in a behind the scenes category in early ’84 and then on air that summer with “Malibu Sue’s Official Long Island Beach Report” and as a ‘character’ and fill in on “Manila Time” (morning show with Ben Manila and Mark The Shark).

You also have a long history with Depeche through radio interviews, concert introductions, etc. When did you first meet them, and what are your favorite memories of the band?

Hmmm. I can’t recall the very first time I met the band but feel fortunate that I did meet up with them in person so often throughout the years. I definitely hit it off with them from the start, and so it became a regular habit or routine, if you will, for us to be sure to talk or do an interview whenever they were in town, releasing new music or promoting other significant events in their career.

One time I recall they were coming up to the radio station (WDRE), and I was in the kitchen eating the pizza we had ordered for the band and Fletch comes around the door and catches me! He said (quite petulantly but really just teasing) – “Malibu Sue! You’ve begun lunch WITHOUT US!” How rude of me! Course I had a mouthful and a red face!!! Another fond memory I have, and one of the fondest of my career, was when the band only allowed me to go onstage to intro them at Giants Stadium [in 1990]. The reception I got from my beloved listeners brought tears to my eyes. Looking out over a crowd of about 80,000 was daunting to say the least, and I was very grateful to the band for the opportunity! I was so touched and overwhelmed, I barely choked out “I love you” to the crowd. It was exhilarating.

Pre-show at Giants Stadium World Violation Tour 1990

Contest winners’ meet and greet with Malibu Sue and DM

Dave and Alan with a contest winner

Nitzer Ebb opened the show – personally chosen by Depeche. I ended up saving one of the guy’s necks (can’t remember [if it was Bon or Doug] now!!) as he decided to crawl out the open window of the press box we were watching Depeche from and almost fell to his death! I grabbed him and pulled him back into the window! Gadzooks!

Live WDRE-FM New York broadcast from Giants Stadium

Nitzer Ebb stop by live broadcast as well

To this day whenever DM are in town, they always check in with me and ask if I’ll be able to get to the shows! I also recall a phone interview I was doing with Dave. He was in NYC babysitting and I was doing mornings at WLIR. I believe it was for his solo album [Paper Monsters]. He called in and he had little Stella in his arms and we giggled as he struggled to keep her quiet and happy during the interview. (We always ‘talk kids’ –mine and his.) Can you just picture Dave Gahan balancing the phone between his neck and shoulder, holding his sweet baby daughter and walking around bouncing her while trying to answer my questions? I have to say, Dave Gahan is as down to earth and as nice as one would hope. And I always say it…a fine human being.

Dave Gahan visits with Malibu Sue and co-host, Andre, at WLIR to promote Paper Monsters

The format of the station when you worked there focused on the new wave and early alternative scene. It was the first one on the entire East Coast to play Depeche Mode. With less rigid programming than in radio today, do you think that this afforded DM more exposure on WLIR?

You know, Depeche is (and was) such a great sounding band, and we always went the way of the listeners who certainly had the ears for great (new wave) music. And since we all seemed to be in agreement (the station’s personnel and the stations listeners) that Depeche Mode was a winner, they got tons of airplay to everyone’s delight. With certain bands, some of us DJs would jokingly say, “You can never hear enough (fill-in-the-blank).” But Depeche was certainly [the real deal]. In other words, it was an easy programming choice – you couldn’t go wrong with a Depeche Mode song!

Did you feel as though you were a part of something bigger than just a radio station, having been involved with new wave/alternative scene? It seemed there was an entire cottage industry of clubs and record stores on Long Island and in the New York area based largely on WLIR’s/WDRE’s music.

Oh yes. Absolutely! You hit the nail on the head with that one. It was a whole lifestyle and ‘scene.’ Certainly I can speak for myself, but I also do believe it was that way for all involved…the DJ’s at the station and the listeners. The radio station wasn’t just a source of music, not just your favorite radio station–it was more than that. We had a very special connection to the artists and the listeners alike. We were all “in this together”. I remember [program director] Denis McNamara calling it a kind of “secret membership” of those who “got it.” But yes, it was much bigger than just a radio station–it was our whole lives.

Erasure visit with Malibu Sue

Malibu Sue with Morrissey

Having recently finished their final leg of the Touring the Angel Tour, Depeche Mode are experiencing a huge surge in popularity in parts of Europe, with both record-level album and concert ticket sales. Yet, the same tour saw DM play fewer shows in North America than on any tour since 1987. What do you think explains what appears to be a popularity decline in the States?

You know I can’t help but think it isn’t a matter of a decline in popularity, but sadly and unfortunately a decline in support (airplay and such) here in the States. Those of us who are the ‘older’ – and hence longtime – fans of the band’s music aren’t perhaps as diligent in pursuing our new music as we once were. And with the lack of airplay – foolish move on your part American Radio! – the word is just not reaching all the fans that the music and concerts are out there. Obviously I am saved from that due to my unique position being in this industry, but I am speaking on behalf of fans everywhere out there. I often run into people who didn’t know there was new Depeche music or that they were playing concerts. Again, I am chagrined to blame my industry and lack of airplay but there you have it. It’s the sad truth.

For the last few years, you’ve been connecting with Long Island radio listeners on Island 94.3 FM. How are you enjoying it there, and how does the gig compare with your time at WLIR/WDRE?

I don’t think anything can compare to my WLIR/WDRE days to tell the truth. But it was a different and very special age back then and I am grateful for the experience and the memories. Being part of such a musically adventurous time was like no other. However, I adore what I do and am thrilled to be allowed to continue to do it. The company I am currently working for and the people I am working with are top notch, so it is a pleasure to wake up and go to work each day!

You interviewed Dave at the release of Playing the Angel and to hype the in-store promotional appearance at Tower Records. How does it feel to be the “go-to” person the band feels comfortable reaching out to in New York when they’re in town promoting projects? I mean, who else are they going to talk to, those hacks Scott & Todd?!

You are too funny!!

It is a really great feeling to have persons one keeps in high regard think the same of me…and of course to have them think of me as ‘a good, true friend’ is elating and honestly speaking, I am quite proud of that.

Congratulations on your continued success in radio and thanks for being so instrumental in helping break Depeche Mode and so many amazing artists over the years.

To catch streaming audio of Malibu Sue’s radio broadcast from her new home at Island 94.3, please Click Here from 10am-3pm USA ET weekdays.

Interview by Sean. (C) Home. Do not steal this article without giving full credit and a link! Photos appears courtesy of Malibu Sue. Some images taken from