Actress Tawny Kitaen dies at 59; starred in MTV videos, ‘Bachelor Party’
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Actress and model Tawny Kitaen, who was born in San Diego and gained fame for her appearances in 1980s music videos and her high-profile marriages to Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and former Angels pitcher Chuck Finley, died at the age of 59, authorities said today.
Kitaen died at approximately 8 a.m., according to the Orange County coroner’s office, which listed the incident as a “residential death.”
Her autopsy will take place next week, either Monday or Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman at the coroner’s office.
Police were dispatched to Kitaen’s Newport Beach home at 1:51 p.m. Friday regarding an “unresponsive female found inside the residence,” according to Sgt. Steve Oberon of the Newport Beach Police Department.
Oberon said Newport Beach Fire Department paramedics pronounced Kitaen dead at the scene.
“The coroner is handling the death investigation. So we don’t know the cause of death. Our report is pending. The officers haven’t finished their report,” Oberon told City News Service on Saturday.
Kitaen had tweeted as recently as Thursday, thanking a fan for drawing a picture of her. Her last Facebook post was dated Tuesday, and showed a self-taken photograph of her with the message: “When I stare at you, it’s because I want to know what you’re thinking. And I want to know what you’re thinking, it’s because I care about you. Let me know.”
Julie E. Kitaen was born in San Diego and adopted the nickname Tawny as a child. She started modeling in the early 1980s, appearing on rock album covers and soon in videos for hard-rock bands.
She also earned movie roles during this time, including a major role in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party” as the fiance of the lead character played by Tom Hanks. Other film roles included 1984’s “Gwendoline,” 1986’s “Witchboard” and 1996’s “Dead Tides.”
Kitaen starred in several videos for the band Whitesnake, most famously for the 1987 song “Here I Go Again,” in which she danced provocatively on the hood of a car.
She married Coverdale in 1989, and they divorced in 1991.
“Just woke up to some very sad, unexpected news … Waiting on confirmation … but, if it is true, my sincere condolences to her children, her family, friends & fans,” Coverdale tweeted Saturday.
Kitaen married Finley in 1997 and they divorced in 2002, shortly after Kitaen was charged with domestic violence for kicking Finley in the face with high-heeled shoes. She submitted to a spousal battery counseling program and the charges were dismissed. The couple had two daughters together.
Her television career included recurring roles on “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “America’s Funniest People” and “The New WKRP in Cincinnati.”
Kitaen’s later years featured appearances on the VH1 reality shows “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”