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Tawny Kitaen

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Tawny Kitaen
Kitaen in 1984
Julie Ellen Kitaen

(1961-08-05)August 5, 1961
DiedMay 7, 2021(2021-05-07) (aged 59)
Years active1976–2017
(m. 1989; div. 1991)
(m. 1997; div. 2002)

Julie Ellen "Tawny" Kitaen (/kɪˈtn/ ki-TAYN; August 5, 1961 – May 7, 2021) was an American actress. She began her career as a television actress, appearing in the television films Malibu (1983) and California Girls (1985). She also starred in the comedies The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak and Bachelor Party (both 1984), and the horror film Witchboard (1986).

Kitaen garnered widespread recognition for her appearances in a number of heavy metal music videos, including Ratt's "Back for More" (1984) and Whitesnake's "Still of the Night", "Is This Love" and "Here I Go Again" (all 1987).

In the 2000s, Kitaen transitioned into appearing on reality television series, including The Surreal Life (2006) and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (2008), the latter of which documented Kitaen's issues with substance abuse.

Early life


Julie Ellen Kitaen was born in San Diego, California in 1961, the eldest of three children born to Linda Kitaen (née Taylor), a housewife and one-time beauty pageant participant, and Terry Kitaen, an employee of a neon sign company.[1][2] Kitaen's mother was of Scottish and Irish descent, while her father was of Russian-Jewish heritage.[3]

Kitaen was raised in the Jewish faith.[4][5] She began using the nickname "Tawny" at the age of 12 on her own initiative.[6] As a child, she struggled with dyslexia, which led to her to drop out of Mission Bay High School.[7] At the age of 14, with backstage passes after a Peter Frampton concert at Balboa Stadium,[8] she witnessed the VIP treatment afforded Frampton's girlfriend Penny and aspired to achieve it for herself.[9]



Kitaen modeled and appeared in television commercials for Jack LaLanne's European Health Spas in the early 1980s. In a January 2021 Instagram post a few months before her death, she claimed the experience inspired her to become an actress.[10]

Kitaen appeared on the cover of Ratt's debut EP Ratt (1983) and the band's debut Atlantic studio album Out of the Cellar (1984). She was dating the band's guitarist Robbin Crosby at the time.[11]

Kitaen began her acting career in 1983 with a minor role in the television movie Malibu. In 1984, she starred as the title character of the erotic adventure movie The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak, also called Gwendoline.[12] Her other film appearances include Bachelor Party (1984) as the bride-to-be of Tom Hanks' character,[13] and starring roles in the minor box office hit Witchboard (1986),[14] White Hot, and Dead Tides.[12]

She appeared in several music videos in the 1980s for the band Whitesnake, including the hits "Here I Go Again", "Still of the Night", "Is This Love", and "The Deeper the Love". She also appeared in Ratt's "Back for More" music video.[15]

From February to July 1989, she appeared as Lisa DiNapoli on the daytime serial Santa Barbara.[16][17] She appeared on Seinfeld as Jerry's girlfriend in the 1991 episode "The Nose Job." She appeared in 19 episodes of the TV series The New WKRP in Cincinnati from 1991 to 1993 as nighttime DJ Mona Loveland, who has a show called Mona Til Midnight. She also had recurring parts in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and co-hosted America's Funniest People from 1992 to 1994.[12]

Kitaen joined the cast of the sixth edition of the VH1 reality television show The Surreal Life, which began airing in March 2006.[2] She also appeared in the second season of the VH1 reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which began in October 2008.[18][19] She appeared in the Season 4 Episode 12 of Botched, requesting that her breast implants be removed.[15]

Personal life and death


Kitaen dated Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby during and after high school. They moved in together as teenagers when Crosby was in the band Phenomenon.[20]

Kitaen had a year-long affair with O. J. Simpson while he was married to Nicole Brown Simpson. The affair was revealed at Simpson's 1997 civil trial for wrongful death.[21][22]

She married Whitesnake singer David Coverdale in 1989; they divorced in 1991.[23]

Kitaen was married to baseball player Chuck Finley from 1997 to 2002, with whom she had two daughters, Wynter and Raine.[24] In 2002 she was charged with domestic violence for an incident involving Finley;[25][26] in a plea bargain, she agreed to enter a spousal battery counseling program and avoid contact with Finley.[26] Three days later, Finley filed for divorce.[26]

In November 2006, prosecutors charged Kitaen with possessing 15 grams of cocaine in her San Juan Capistrano home in Orange County. The authorities said her two children were home at the time and that she had granted deputies permission for the search.[27] In December 2006, Kitaen entered a six-month rehabilitation program in exchange for the dismissal of a felony drug-possession charge.[28][29]

On September 26, 2009, Kitaen was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Newport Beach, California.[30] The following July, she pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI and was sentenced to two days in jail, ordered to attend a first-offender alcohol program and required to perform 64 hours of community service.[31]

On July 22, 2019, Kitaen was again arrested for DUI in Newport Beach.[32][33] She was formally charged with a misdemeanor related to the arrest on October 22 of that year.[32] Kitaen pleaded not guilty and was scheduled for a pretrial hearing on May 18, 2021.[32] However, she died before the hearing could take place.[32] If convicted, Kitaen could have been incarcerated.[32]



Kitaen died at her Newport Beach home on May 7, 2021, at the age of 59. She had been working with author and historian Colin Heaton on her memoirs for the past year.[15][34][non-primary source needed] Kitaen's death was confirmed to The New York Times by her daughter Wynter Finley, who told the paper that the cause of death was not immediately known.[23] Police reported that nothing at the scene indicated alcohol or drugs as a factor in the death.[35] The Orange County coroner's office declared it a "residential death", without further details.[36]

In October 2021, the Orange County coroner's office announced Kitaen's official cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy, a common type of heart disease. Other contributing factors to her death included mild coronary atherosclerosis and drug ingestion, including mirtazapine, alprazolam, acetaminophen, pregabalin, and hydrocodone.[37]




Year Title Role Notes
1984 The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak Gwendoline [12]
1984 Bachelor Party Debbie Thompson [12]
1986 Witchboard Linda Brewster [12]
1986 Crystal Heart Alley Daniels [12]
1986 Instant Justice Virginia [12]
1987 Happy Hour Misty Roberts [12]
1989 White Hot Vanessa [12]
1993 Three of Hearts Woman in Bar [12]
1996 Playback Sara Burgess [12]
1997 Dead Tides Nola [12]
2009 Tom Cool unreleased[38]
2011 Here We Go Again herself Short film[39]
2014 After Midnight Rikki [40]
2015 Come Simi Dee Dee [40]


Year Title Role Notes
1976 To Tell the Truth Herself Game show[41]
1983 Malibu Mahoney's girlfriend TV film[12]
1985 California Girls Karen Malone TV film[12]
1986–1987 Capitol Meredith Ross TV series[42]
1987 Glory Years Melinda Murphy TV film[12]
1989 Santa Barbara Lisa DiNapoli Appeared between February 28, 1989, and July 21, 1989[16][17]
1989 Booker Skylar Samperton Episode: "Someone Stole Lucille"[12]
1991 They Came from Outer Space Monica Bates Episode: "Sex, Lies & UFOs: Part 2"[43]
1991 Veronica Clare Guest appearance[44]
1991 Seinfeld Isabel Episode: "The Nose Job"[12]
1991–1993 The New WKRP in Cincinnati Mona Loveland Main role (19 episodes)[12]
1992–1994 America's Funniest People Co-host Succeeded Arleen Sorkin[45]
1992–1996 Eek! The Cat Annabelle (voice) Main role (39 episodes)[46]
1994 Married... with Children Dominique Episode: "Shoeway to Heaven"[12]
1994 Hercules and the Circle of Fire Deianeira TV film[12]
1994 Hercules in the Underworld Deianeira TV film[12]
1994 Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur Deianeira TV film[12]
1995 The Naked Truth Herself Episode: "Real Life Henry Higgins Turns Dork into Duke!"
1995 Burke's Law Rhonda Dooley Episode: "Who Killed Cock-a-Doodle Dooley?"[40]
1995 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Deianeira Episodes: "The Wrong Path", "The Other Side"[12]
1997 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Deianeira Episode: "When a Man Loves a Woman"[12]
2006 The Surreal Life Herself[15]
2006 Behind the Music Herself Episode: "Ratt"
2008 Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew Herself[15]
2011 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Lydia Kole Episode: "Father of the Bride"[12]
2012 Life@Large Diane Kaplan Web miniseries[47]
2017 Botched Herself Episode: "Boob Trains and Big Butts"[15]

Music videos

Year Title Artist
1984 "Back for More" Ratt[15]
1987 "Still of the Night" Whitesnake[15]
1987 "Here I Go Again" Whitesnake[15]
1987 "Is This Love" Whitesnake[15]
1989 "Fool for Your Loving" Whitesnake[15]
1990 "The Deeper the Love" Whitesnake[15]


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  3. ^ Weiskind, Ron (May 14, 1992). "TCI to enter music field". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 28 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ @Tawny_Kitaen (July 8, 2016). "My parents! Really my dads side, it's the Jew n me When it's really curly I call it my #Jewfro YES IM JEWISH PEOPLE!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  5. ^ @Tawny_Kitaen (March 9, 2019). "I'm shocked. As an American Jewish woman, I'm saddened. Someone please help this young lady before we lose to that horrific Trump presidency again. He'll use her words against us. #wordsmatter" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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