Friday, September 4, 1998

Star-Bulletin file
Darlene Yoshimoto McDonald, or Masako
as she was known to her fans, in 1961.

’60s isle singer
is killed in Utah

By Rod Ohira


Darlene Yoshimoto McDonald never passed up a chance to help someone, said her husband.

"She was always giving, and I know God is taking good care of her," Herb McDonald said about his 54-year-old wife, who was killed Sunday in Richfield, Utah, while trying to help a woman and two children whose van had crashed into a barrier on Interstate 70.

According to the Richfield Highway Patrol, Darlene McDonald was struck by a pickup truck about 5:30 p.m. while walking on the roadway toward the van. The scene of the crash is on a curb at the top of a mountain slope, and the driver of the truck didn't see her, according to investigators.

There were no other injuries, investigators said. Darlene McDonald -- known as Masako when she performed in showrooms at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Royal Hawaiian Hotel during the early 1960s -- lived in Las Vegas but had gone to Utah on a hiking trip, her husband said.

Her singing career took off at age 16 when she won a "Show of Stars" contest in 1960. She had already recorded tunes with The Jokers, a local group that also featured Teddy Chinen (also known as Teddy Tanaka).

Star-Bulletin file
She was 16 when her singing career took off in 1960.

The Roosevelt High School graduate began performing at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1961.

"She used this gimmick where she comes out in a kimono and the audience is expecting this cute little girl to sing something Japanese," radio personality and promoter Tom Moffatt said.

"Then she'd take off the kimono, be dressed in a gown and start singing 'Mack the Knife.' The audience loved that. She was a nice person and very talented."

Masako was performing in a Bob Herrick production at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel when she met her husband, a former Del Webb Corp. executive.

The singer, who had a small role in Elvis Presley's movie "Girls! Girls! Girls!," which was filmed in Hawaii in 1962, gave up a promising show business career when she married McDonald in March 1966.

"When Herb proposed he offered my sister a permanent booking in Las Vegas or married life," Rodney Yoshimoto said. "She was a home-type person and very happy to be a housewife."

McDonald, an executive for Showboat Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, said his wife had been very active with charitable causes during the past 32 years.

"She helped to start a middle school (Meadows School) in Las Vegas that is now a full high school," McDonald said. "At Christmas she'd always be buying extra Christmas trees and gifts to help less fortunate people."

One of McDonald's fondest memories of his wife performing occurred at the opening of the Kuilima Hotel, now the Turtle Bay Hilton.

"There were a lot of stars there, and Bob Hope's on stage, and he says, 'Darlene, where are you?' He then asks her to do the honor of singing 'Hawaiian Wedding Song.'"

McDonald is survived by her husband, daughter Kimberly, father Stanley, sister Joanne Yamada and brothers Rodney and Calvin.

Services were to be held today at Our Lady of Las Vegas Church.

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