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Tawny Kitaen: Actress and Model
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Tawny Kitaen, the actress and model best known for her roles in 1980s music videos and films, passed away on May 7, 2021 at the age of 59. Her career spanned several decades and included appearances in movies like "Bachelor Party" and "Witchboard," as well as iconic music videos for Whitesnake and Ratt.

Early Life and Beginnings

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Tawny Kitaen was born Julie Kitaen on August 5, 1961 in San Diego, California. As a child, she pursued interests in ballet and gymnastics until the age of 15. Kitaen began her entertainment career by appearing in a commercial for fitness guru Jack LaLanne in the early 1980s. This experience inspired her to pursue acting. Some of Kitaen's early acting roles included the television movie "Malibu" in 1983 and the film "Bachelor Party" in 1984, where she played the fiancée of Tom Hanks' character. She also starred in the 1984 erotic adventure movie "The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak" and the 1986 horror film "Witchboard". These roles, along with her later appearances in rock music videos, helped establish Kitaen as a sex symbol of the 1980s.
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Modeling and Acting Career Overview

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Tawny Kitaen had a multi-faceted career in modeling, acting, and reality television. Some of her most notable roles included:
  • Modeling for Jack LaLanne's European Health Spas in the early 1980s, which she said inspired her to pursue acting.
  • Appearing on the covers of Ratt's debut EP and album while dating the band's guitarist Robbin Crosby.
  • Acting in films like the erotic adventure The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984), Bachelor Party (1984) with Tom Hanks, and the horror movie Witchboard (1986).
  • Starring in iconic 1980s music videos for the band Whitesnake, including "Here I Go Again", "Still of the Night", and "Is This Love".
  • Recurring roles on TV shows like Santa Barbara, Seinfeld, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
  • Appearing on reality shows in the 2000s like The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where she addressed her substance abuse issues.
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Whitesnake's 'Here I Go Again'

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Tawny Kitaen is best known for her iconic appearance in Whitesnake's music video for their 1987 hit song "Here I Go Again". The video features Kitaen performing seductive dance moves on the hoods of two Jaguar cars, including cartwheels and splits.
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"Here I Go Again" was originally released by Whitesnake on their 1982 album Saints & Sinners, but it was re-recorded for their self-titled 1987 album. The re-recorded version, released as a single, topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in October 1987, becoming the band's only #1 hit in the United States. It also reached #9 on the UK Singles Chart. The music video, directed by Marty Callner, played a significant role in the song's success and helped propel Whitesnake to mainstream popularity in the U.S.
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Kitaen's alluring performance made her the quintessential video vixen of the '80s rock era and an MTV icon.
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The video's popularity also boosted Kitaen's acting career. In 2021, following Kitaen's death, "Here I Go Again" re-entered the charts, reaching #1 on Billboard's Hot Hard Rock Songs chart. The song and video remain an enduring part of Kitaen's legacy in pop culture.
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Tawny Kitaen's Filmography

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Here is a concise filmography of Tawny Kitaen's movie roles:
  • The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984) as Gwendoline
  • Bachelor Party (1984) as Debbie Thompson
  • Witchboard (1986) as Linda Brewster
  • Crystal Heart (1986) as Alley Daniels
  • Instant Justice (1986) as Virginia
  • Happy Hour (1987) as Misty Roberts
  • White Hot (1989) as Vanessa
  • Three of Hearts (1993) as Woman in Bar
  • Playback (1996) as Sara Burgess
  • Dead Tides (1997) as Nola
  • Tom Cool (2009) - unreleased
  • Here We Go Again (2011) as herself, short film
  • After Midnight (2014) as Rikki
  • Come Simi (2015) as Dee Dee
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Tawny Kitaen's Marriage To Chuck Finley

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Tawny Kitaen's personal life was often tumultuous, marked by high-profile relationships and legal troubles. She was married to baseball player Chuck Finley from 1997 to 2002, with whom she had two daughters, Wynter and Raine. However, their divorce was contentious, involving allegations of domestic violence against Kitaen. In 2002, Kitaen was charged with domestic violence for an incident involving Finley. As part of a plea bargain, she agreed to enter a spousal battery counseling program and avoid contact with Finley. Just three days after the charges, Finley filed for divorce. Kitaen also struggled with substance abuse throughout her life. In 2006, she was charged with cocaine possession while her two children were present in the home. She entered a six-month rehabilitation program as part of a plea deal to dismiss the felony drug possession charge. In 2009, Kitaen was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and sentenced to two days in jail, community service, and an alcohol offender program after pleading no contest. She was arrested again for DUI in 2019 and was awaiting a pretrial hearing at the time of her death in 2021. These personal and legal challenges took a toll on Kitaen's life and career. However, she also sought treatment for her addictions and spoke openly about her struggles in the hopes of helping others facing similar issues.
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Cocaine Addiction and Rehab

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Tawny Kitaen battled substance abuse issues for a significant portion of her life. In 2006, she was charged with possessing 15 grams of cocaine in her San Juan Capistrano home in Orange County while her two children were present. As part of a plea deal, Kitaen entered a six-month rehabilitation program in exchange for the dismissal of the felony drug possession charge. Kitaen's struggles with addiction were further documented when she appeared on the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2008. The show aimed to address her substance abuse issues and work towards recovery. In addition to cocaine, Kitaen faced legal troubles related to alcohol. In September 2009, she was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Newport Beach, California. She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI and was sentenced to two days in jail, ordered to attend an alcohol offender program, and required to perform 64 hours of community service. Kitaen was arrested again for DUI in Newport Beach on July 22, 2019. She was formally charged with a misdemeanor in October of that year and pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for May 18, 2021, but Kitaen passed away before it could take place. If convicted, she could have faced potential incarceration. Sadly, drug use was found to be a contributing factor in Kitaen's death in May 2021, along with dilated cardiomyopathy and mild coronary atherosclerosis. The coroner's report indicated she had ingested substances including mirtazapine, alprazolam, acetaminophen, pregabalin, and hydrocodone prior to her passing.
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Cause of Death

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Tawny Kitaen passed away on May 7, 2021 at the age of 59 in her Newport Beach, California home. At the time of her death, Kitaen had been collaborating with author Colin Heaton on writing her memoirs for about a year. The cause of death was not immediately known, according to Kitaen's daughter Wynter Finley. Police indicated there was no evidence that alcohol or drugs played a role in her passing. The local coroner's office initially called it a "residential death" without providing additional details. However, in October 2021, the Orange County Coroner's Office revealed that Kitaen's official cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy, a common form of heart disease. Mild coronary atherosclerosis and ingestion of several medications, including mirtazapine, alprazolam, acetaminophen, pregabalin, and hydrocodone, were listed as contributing factors.
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Closing Thouhgts

Tawny Kitaen left an indelible mark on 1980s pop culture as a captivating actress and music video icon. Her unforgettable appearances in Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love" videos, where she danced seductively on car hoods, cemented her status as a quintessential video vixen of the MTV era. Kitaen's work as an actress, while often overshadowed by her music video fame, included memorable roles in films like the raunchy comedy "Bachelor Party" with Tom Hanks and the cult horror favorite "Witchboard". She also made an impression with her sexy and charismatic performances. Despite her professional successes, Kitaen faced many personal challenges, including a contentious divorce from baseball player Chuck Finley and long-running battles with substance abuse that she openly discussed. Sadly, she passed away in May 2021 at age 59 from dilated cardiomyopathy, with drug use as a contributing factor. While Kitaen's life was cut short, her legacy as a defining figure in the look and attitude of '80s rock music videos lives on. Her striking beauty, daring spirit, and undeniable presence made her an icon whose influence can still be felt in pop culture today. Kitaen's work continues to be discovered and celebrated by new generations of fans.
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