Tawny Kitaen, known for a variety of modeling and acting work, as well as her two high-profile marriages, has died at the age of 59.
The former Whitesnake music video star and Bachelor Party actress died Friday in her Newport Beach, California home. It was reported as a “residential death” by the Orange County coroner’s office, with her cause of death still under investigation.
Kitaen was married at one time to rock star David Coverdale, the lead singer for Whitesnake. Her second marriage was to former MLB pitcher Chuck Finley for five years. On Saturday, Coverdale was among many celebrities who paid tribute to Kitaen upon the news of her passing.
Tawny Kitaen found ‘unresponsive’ inside her residence
According to CBS Los Angeles, authorities were dispatched to actress Tawny Kitaen’s residence at 1:51 p.m. on Friday, May 7, due to a call about an “unresponsive female found inside the residence.”
Sgt. Steve Oberon of the Newport Beach Police Department said that Kitaen was pronounced dead at the scene by Newport Beach Fire Department paramedics. As of this report, her cause of death had yet to be determined.
“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 said on Saturday.
An announcement from Kitaen’s two children, Wynter and Raine, was posted to her official Facebook (below) page on Saturday afternoon.
“We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom. We just want to say thank you for all of you, her fans and her friends, for always showing her such support and love. You gave her life everyday. We miss her and love her and we know her legacy will live on forever,” the announcement said.
Tawny Kitaen, who was born as Julie E. Kitaen in San Diego in 1961, took on the name Tawny by her choice starting at the age of 12. Tawny would later become a major rock video vixen in the 1980s when MTV had music videos playing in heavy rotation. Her work included an appearance in a Ratt music video and three of Whitesnake’s music videos.
She played Debbie Thompson, the woman Tom Hanks‘ character was marrying, in the classic 1980s film, Bachelor Party. She also appeared in the 1986 supernatural horror film, Witchboard.
In addition to those early appearances, she had prominent TV roles later, including 19 episodes of The New WKRP in Cincinnati from 1991 to 1993 and co-hosting America’s Funniest People from 1992 to 1994.
Over the years, she also popped up in other roles, including episodes of Seinfeld and Married With Children, and as a recurring character in Hercules: The Legends Journey. In addition, she was in other movies, including Dead Tides in 1996, Happy Hour in 2002, and After Midnight in 2014.
Along with those acting roles, she appeared on several reality TV programs, including The Surreal Life in 2006 and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008.
David Coverdale, others react to Tawny Kitaen’s death
Kitaen was married twice. Her first marriage was to Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale in 1989, with their marriage ending in divorce in 1991. She appeared in several of the band’s videos, including the classics Here I Go Again and Is This Love.
Kitaen previously dated Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby in the early 1980s. She appeared on several covers for the band’s albums, including Out of the Cellar. The band’s official Instagram page had shared a post featuring the album cover back in October 2020.
In 1997, Kitaen married MLB All-Star pitcher Chuck Finley. Their marriage lasted until 2002 when Finley filed for divorce. The couple had two daughters together.
On Saturday, David Coverdale shared a post on his social media accounts with his reaction to the news of his ex-wife’s passing.
“Woke up to some very sad, unexpected news…my sincere condolences to her children, her family, friends & fans…??,” Coverdale wrote in his post’s caption with a photo showing a beach scene with dark clouds.
In addition to her ex-husband, other celebrities also paid tribute to the late actress, including singer Richard Marx who remembered meeting Tawny Kitaen with David Coverdale when they attended one of his shows.
Actor and comedian Tom Arnold shared a story about former Saturday Night Live star and actor, Chris Farley, once trying to go on a date with Kitaen.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville also tweeted in tribute to Kitaen, referring to her as “a lovely lady” and “so nice” when she appeared on her podcast.
Former MTV VJ Martha Quinn also posted upon Kitaen’s passing. Quinn referred to Kitaen as an “80s fixture” and offered her “deepest condolences to her loved ones, that number many.”
Per CBS Los Angeles’ report, a tweet arrived on Kitaen’s Twitter account late Thursday evening in which she thanked a fan for an image they drew of her. On May 8, a tweet was posted sharing a link to the announcement from Kitaen’s daughters on Instagram expressing their sorrow and belief that their mother’s “legacy will live on forever.”