Who Was Tawny Kitaen?
Actress and television personality Tawny Kitaen dropped out of high school and started modeling as a teenager. In the mid-1980s, she made appearances in films and started dating Whitesnake rocker David Coverdale. Starring in several Whitesnake videos, Kitaen became a sex symbol of the 1980s. After marrying and divorcing Coverdale, she acted on television shows, and in 2006, Kitaen was back in the spotlight on the reality show The Surreal Life. Kitaen made public her struggle with drugs on Celebrity Rehab.
Early Life and Career
Kitaen was born Julie Kitaen on August 5, 1961, in San Diego, California. Around the age of 12, Kitaen gave herself the nickname "Tawny." She had a hard time at school because of her dyslexia, and she eventually dropped out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego. To support herself, Kitaen landed some modeling work and some small acting roles.
Kitaen's big break came in 1984 with the film Bachelor Party. She starred opposite Tom Hanks as his bride-to-be in this raunchy comedy. Not too long after the film's release, Kitaen received an even more substantial career boost from her work in another medium. She started dating rocker David Coverdale of Whitesnake, and she appeared in several music videos for the rock group, including the No. 1 hit "Here I Go Again." Showcasing her good looks, big hair and long legs, these videos helped make Kitaen a popular sex symbol at the time.
Kitaen married Coverdale in 1989, but the union proved to be short-lived. The couple soon divorced, and Kitaen became involved with professional baseball player Chuck Finley. While experiencing some ups and downs in her personal life, her career seemed to be going strong. Kitaen had a lot of television work, starring in the comedy series The New WKRP in Cincinnati and co-hosting America's Funniest People with Dave Coulier.
In 1997, Kitaen married Finley. The couple already had a daughter, Wynter, before tying the knot. They soon expanded their family with the birth of another girl, Raine, in 1998. By this time, Kitaen had largely dropped out of the professional world to raise her children.
Assault and Drug Use
In 2002, Kitaen made headlines for a domestic dispute between her and her husband. She was arrested on two charges of misdemeanor spousal abuse after she allegedly physically assaulted Finley during an argument. Finley filed for divorce three days after the incident. That September, Kitaen reached a settlement in the case. The charges against her were dropped after she completed a year of counseling.
Kitaen tried to resurrect her career by appearing on a reality television series in 2006. She joined the cast of The Surreal Life for its sixth season. The show filmed a group of once-famous celebrities living together under one roof. Kitaen appeared with actress Florence Henderson; American Idol contestant Corey Clark; performer Alexis Arquette; and others on the show. That same year, Kitaen was arrested for cocaine possession. The charge against her was dismissed after she competed a six-month rehabilitation program.
The following year, Kitaen launched her own legal battle. She filed suit against a former boyfriend, claiming that he scammed her out of $3 million of her assets. The pair finally reached a settlement in 2009.
Taking her private struggles public, Kitaen again delved into the world of reality television in 2008, appearing in the second season of Celebrity Rehab with a group that included actors Gary Busey and Jeff Conaway. She shared that she had a drug problem on the show, and completed a televised treatment program. Yet Kitaen had trouble maintaining her sobriety. In September 2009, Kitaen was arrested for driving under the influence.
Despite her past troubles, Kitaen continued to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. One of her most recent projects was a guest appearance on the crime drama CSI.
Kitean died on May 7, 2021, in Newport Beach, California.
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