Julie "Tawny" Kitaen (pronounced /kɨˈteɪ.ən/; August 5, 1961 - May 7, 2021) was an American actress and media personality in Southern California. She became famous in the 1980s for appearing in several heavy metal music videos for the band Whitesnake, including the hit "Here I Go Again". Kitaen was married to Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale from 1989–1991. She had recurring parts on multiple television series such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and co-hosted America's Funniest People from 1992–1994. She was arrested for drug possession in 2006, had been in and out of rehab programs, was part of The Surreal Life cast in 2006, and was one of the patients in Season 2 of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Julie Kitaen was born in San Diego, California in 1961 to a Jewish-American father, Terry Kitaen, who was an employee of a neon sign company, and Linda Taylor Kitaen, a housewife and a former beauty pageant queen (runner-up in the Miss San Diego pageant to Raquel Welch). Julie began using the name "Tawny" at the age of 12, on her own initiative.
Kitaen was romantically linked at various times to Tommy Lee, O.J. Simpson, Jerry Seinfeld, Chuck Finley, and Jon Stewart. Kitaen married David Coverdale in 1989, but the two divorced in 1991. After her marriage to Coverdale ended, she married baseball pitcher Chuck Finley in 1997. They had two daughters — Wynter Finley in 1993 and Raine Finley in 1996 — and appeared in a feature of professional athletes and their wives in the 1999 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
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 (a.k.a. Gwendoline). She also co-starred in the movie Bachelor Party as the bride-to-be of a young Tom Hanks and was the star of the 1986 horror movie Witchboard.
Kitaen became associated with the glam metal scene because of her high school sweetheart, Ratt guitarist and founder Robbin Crosby. Her legs appeared on the cover of Ratt's self-titled EP wearing black stockings and red pumps, pictured with white rats. Then, in ripped-up clothes, she appeared on the cover of Ratt's Out of the Cellar. She also can be seen at the beginning of the Ratt video "Back for More" as the girl in the 50s-style skirt at the juke box.
In 1987, her boyfriend was David Coverdale, the lead singer of Whitesnake, and she appeared in several of the band's music videos. Probably most famous was "Here I Go Again," in which she did the splits and rolled around on the hood of two Jaguars wearing a white negligee. She also appeared in the videos for "Is This Love" and "Still of the Night." In 1989, she appeared in video for "The Deeper the Love."
After her music-video appearances, Kitaen took on a number of television roles. She was co-host of America's Funniest People with Dave Coulier from 1992 to 1994, and was a regular cast member on The New WKRP in Cincinnati from 1991 to 1993. She guest-starred in an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld in 1991 and in an episode of Married... with Children in 1994. She had a recurring role as Deianira in three of the Kevin Sorbo Hercules television movies in 1994, and then in the regular television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. From 1992 until 1996, she provided the voice of "Annabelle" in the animated television show Eek! The Cat.
Kitaen was one of the cast of the sixth edition of The Surreal Life, a reality television show on VH1, which began airing in March 2006.
Kitaen appeared in the second season of the VH1 reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which began in October 2008. Dr. Drew Pinsky voiced concern for her use of triazolam after she admitted to using more than 0.5 mg per use. Pinsky guaranteed her that taking the drug (as with any benzodiazepine) in such high doses will eventually cause her to have a seizure. For fear of her life, Pinsky cut the dosage in half, despite Kitaen's protests.
In 2002, Kitaen was charged with committing domestic violence against then-husband major league baseball player Chuck Finley. Three days later, Finley filed for divorce. After a plea bargain, Kitaen agreed to "enter a spousal battery counseling program and avoid contact with Finley." The couple was married for five years and have two daughters, Wynter and Raine.
In November 2006, prosecutors charged Kitaen with possessing 15 grams of cocaine in her San Juan Capistrano home in Orange County. They said her two children were home at the time, and Kitaen had given deputies permission for the search. In December 2006, she entered a six-month rehabilitation program in exchange for the dismissal of a felony drug possession charge.
On September 26, 2009, Kitaen was arrested for driving under the influence in Newport Beach, California.
Kitaen dated Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby during and after high school. They moved in together as teenagers when Crosby was in the band Phenomenon.
Kitaen had a year-long affair with O. J. Simpsonwhile he was married to Nicole Brown Simpson. The information was introduced at Simpson's 1997 civil trial for wrongful death.
Kitaen married Whitesnake singer David Coverdalein 1989; the couple divorced in 1991.
Kitaen was married to baseball player Chuck Finleyfrom 1997 to 2002, with whom she had two daughters, Wynter and Raine. In 2002, she was charged with domestic violence for an incident involving Finley, and three days later, Finley filed for divorce. In a plea bargain, Kitaen agreed to "enter a spousal battery counseling program and avoid contact with Finley."
In November 2006, prosecutors charged Kitaen with possessing 15 grams of cocaine in her San Juan Capistrano home in Orange County. The authorities said that her two children were home at the time and that Kitaen had granted deputies permission for the search. In December 2006, she entered a six-month rehabilitation program in exchange for the dismissal of a felony drug-possession charge.
On September 26, 2009, Kitaen was arrested for driving under the influence in Newport Beach, California. 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.
On May 7, 2021, Kitaen died at her Newport Beach home at the age of 59. Her 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.
- "Tawny Kitaen enters drug rehab for cocaine - Celebrities - MSNBC.com".
- ""VH1 Heads Back to Rehab With Dr. Drew Pinsky for a Second Season of 'Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew' "; June 10, 2008".
- TV Guide; June 23, 2008; Page 8
- ""Celebs Check Into Rehab 2 With Dr. Drew"; vh1.com; June 10, 2008.".
- "Kitaen Files $12-Mil Lawsuit Against Ex". People Magazine. September 24, 2002.
- "Wife accepts Chuck Finley plea bargain". cbcsports. 2002-09-18.
- Faber, Judy (November 22, 2006). "Tawny Kitaen Faces Felony Drug Charges". CBS News Online. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- Vyas, Sunil; 'Bachelor Party' actress Tawny Kitaen in cocaine possession row earthtimes.org; November 23, 2006
- Reuters; Tawny Kitaen enters drug rehab for cocaine msnbc; December 18, 2006
- "Actress Tawny Kitaen arrested in Calif. for DUI". Associated Press. 2009-09-26.