Newport Beach actress and model Tawny Kitaen, best known for her roles in 1980s music videos and ex-wife of Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and former Angels pitcher Chuck Finley, died of heart disease, the Orange County Coroner’s Office confirmed.
Kitaen’s death was ruled natural Friday and was attributed to dilated cardiomyopathy. Other contributing factors were mild coronary atherosclerosis, and she had mirtazapine, an antidepressant; mirtazapine metabolite; alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug; as well as painkillers acetaminophen, pregabalin and hydrocodone in her system.
She died about 8 a.m. on May 7 in her home.
Kitaen’s two children from her marriage to Finley, Wynter and Raine, posted a message announcing their mother’s death.
“We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom,” they said. “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.”
Kitaen had tweeted as recently as the day before her death, thanking a fan for drawing a picture of her. Her last Facebook post was dated earlier that week, and showed a self-taken photograph of her with the message: “When I stare at you, it’s because I want to know what you’re thinking. And I want to know what you’re thinking, it’s because I care about you. Let me know.”
Julie E. Kitaen was born in San Diego and adopted the nickname Tawny as a child. She started modeling in the early 1980s, appearing on rock album covers and soon in videos for hard-rock bands.
She also earned movie roles during this time, including a major role in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party” as the fiance of the lead character played by Tom Hanks. Other film roles included 1984’s “Gwendoline,” 1986’s “Witchboard” and 1996’s “Dead Tides.”
Kitaen starred in several videos for the band Whitesnake, most famously for the 1987 song “Here I Go Again,” in which she danced provocatively on the hood of a car.
She married Coverdale in 1989, and they divorced in 1991.
She married Finley in 1997 and they divorced in 2002, shortly after Kitaen was charged with domestic violence for kicking Finley in the face with high-heeled shoes. She pleaded guilty and submitted to a spousal battery counseling program.
Her television career included recurring roles on “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “America’s Funniest People” and “The New WKRP in Cincinnati.”
Kitaen’s later years featured appearances on the VH1 reality shows “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”