What Happened To '80s Video Star Tawny Kitaen?

Actress, model, and TV personality, Julie Kitaen, better known as Tawny, was one of the most hyper-sexualized music video vixens of the early MTV era. Most remember Kitaen today from the Whitesnake music video for "Here I Go Again" and from her appearances on the hard rock band Ratt's debut album cover (via the Los Angeles Times). Kitaen, who died in 2021 at the age of 59, was also an actress, though, most notably in the 1984 Tom Hanks movie "Bachelor Party." But just as quickly as she was on the scene, Kitaen seemed to disappear, only to reemerge in the reality TV era, embroiled in her own personal controversy.

Interested in acting and music from a young age, Kitaen insisted people call her Tawny when she was 12, according to Biography. Dyslexic, Kitaen dropped out of high school to pursue her interests in entertainment, and her first brush with fame came as a model. Around that same time, Kitaen dated Ratt guitarist, Robbin Crosby, and famously, she appeared as a model on a Ratt EP and album cover. By 1976, she appeared on the TV game show, "To Tell the Truth," Deadline reports, followed by TV movie roles and feature films, namely "The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of YikYak" and her part in "Bachelor Party" with Hanks. Surprised by the quality of her acting, most considered Kitaen just a pretty face, but she did more than just pose for the camera.

Kitaen married rock star David Coverdale in 1989

Besides dating rock star Robbin Crosby from Ratt, Tawny Kitaen dated but then married the lead singer from the British band Whitesnake, David Coverdale, in 1989. Around this time, the model and actress cemented her fame with the MTV generation with appearances in at least four Whitesnake videos: "Here I Go Again," "Still of the Night," "Is This Love," and "The Deeper the Love." Those music videos made Kitaen a star and allowed her to pursue more acting jobs. She appeared on "Seinfeld" and had a 19-episode recurring role on "The New WKRP in Cincinnati," a syndicated sitcom on the air from 1991 to 1993.

By that time, Kitaen and Coverdale (pictured together, above) had divorced. As the Associated Press reports, Kitaen then had a one-year affair with O.J. Simpson. But it was Kitaen's marriage to Cleveland Indians pitcher Chuck Finley that made headlines. Finley and Kitaen married in 1997 and had two daughters. In 2002, Kitaen was arrested for spousal abuse for beating and injuring Finley, ESPN reports. While driving home, Kitaen reportedly kicked him with her high heels in his thigh, leg, and arm, and then twisted his ear. Finley had to pull out of his MLB season debut the next day.

The music video star entered rehab

During her marriage with Finley, Kitaen reportedly developed substance abuse issues, particularly with the painkiller Vicodin. Around the same time as the Finley attack, after which Finley sought a restraining order, Kitaen also faced charges for keying a car in a parking dispute. Shortly thereafter Finley and Kitaen divorced and the domestic assault case was dismissed. Throughout it all, Kitaen maintained the Finley incident was blown out of proportion. According to Kitaen, she never hit her husband with a shoe. She did seek rehab after the incident, though. According to the Daily Pilot from the L.A. Times, Kitaen vowed to be "the healthiest and the best mother possible" to her two daughters, she said.

That time in rehab would not solve all of Kitaen's substance use issues. In 2006, she was arrested for possession of cocaine and in 2009, she was charged with DUI. Around 2008, Kitaen appeared in "Celebrity Rehab" episodes with Dr. Drew, after several run-ins with the law for drug use. Based on 2010 reporting from the Daily Pilot, though, Kitaen did manage to turn her life around. Speaking with the Daily Pilot, she explained she began volunteering for an organization supporting abused women, Kathy's House, a non-profit shelter for at-risk women in San Juan Capistrano. That mission was personal, Kitaen said. After her divorce from Finley, she began seeing a man she said was physically and verbally abusive. To help deal with the relationship, Kitaen turned to cocaine.

Kitaen's relationship with Finley improved

In the final few years of her life, Tawny Kitaen's relationship with her ex-husband, MLB pitcher David Finley, improved. According to Kitaen's 2010 interview with the Daily Pilot, she lived in Finley's house at that time and co-parented their two daughters. She also still acted, and appeared in a number of other reality shows. One of her final TV appearances was on an installment of the "CSI" franchise. One of her last movie roles came in the 2014 feature film, "After Midnight." In the last decade of her life, Kitaen was mainly an active supporter of organizations like "Kathy's House," among other nonprofit services, which was a far cry from her troubled past.

Per Fox News, Kitaen was found dead in her Newport Beach, California home at the age of 59. Kitaen's cause of death was reportedly dilated cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease, along with mild coronary atherosclerosis. Possibly contributing to her death — which was ruled to be from natural causes, according to a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff's Department — were a number of prescription medications. Referring to their mother's death, the children Kitaen had with Finley, Wynter and Raine, shared a message on Kitaen's Instagram account: "We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom. We just want to say thank you, her fans and friends, for always showing her such support and love," their statement read.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).