Actress, music video star Tawny Kitaen dies at 59

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Actress Tawny Kitaen, who appeared on the big screen with Tom Hanks and, perhaps more famously, in a series of music videos for Whitesnake, has died at 59.

Kitaen died Friday at her home in Newport Beach, California, Variety reported, citing a report by the Orange County coroner’s office.

Kitaen was born Julie Kitaen in 1961 and gave herself the nickname “Tawny” when she was 12. She dated Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby in the early 1980s and appeared as the cover model for the EP “Ratt” — on which only her lower body was seen — and the band’s first LP, “Out of the Cellar.”

She got her first big acting break in the 1984 film “Bachelor Party,” in which she played Hanks’ fiancée.

Kitaen then got much exposure on MTV through Whitesnake, which was led by singer David Coverdale, whom she would later marry. The music man and the former beauty pageant contestant made a classic ’80s couple, with both rocking big hair.

The singer cast the beauty in videos as eye candy for the hits “Here I Go Again”, “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love” and “The Deeper the Love.”

It was “Here I Go Again,” which topped the charts in 1987 — thanks in large part to the video in heavy rotation on MTV — that created a sensation, with Kitaen as a human hood ornament dancing seductively on two Jaguars.

In a 2020 interview on the “Ouch You’re On My Hair” podcast, Kitaen recalled that she originally was not going to be in the video, but then she accompanied Coverdale to a meeting at director Marty Kallner’s house to go over storyboards.

“So we went over to his Bel Air mansion,” she said, “and he opens up the door, and without even saying hi or hello, he pointed at me and he said, ‘You’re her.’ And I’m, like, ‘I’m who?’ And he said, ‘You’re the girl.’”

More smash hits, videos and a 1989 marriage followed for the couple, but they split up in 1991. In 1997, O.J. Simpson, at his wrongful-death trial in the killings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, testified he had a yearlong affair with Kitaen when he was married.

Kitaen found TV success as Mona Loveland on the reboot of “WKRP in Cincinnati” from 1991-93. She continued to work steadily in the ‘90s, and in 1997 she married then-Anaheim Angels pitcher Chuck Finley, who earned 200 wins in a 17-year career. They had two daughters together.

In 2002 she was charged with domestic violence for allegedly kicking Finley in the face repeatedly while wearing high heels. Finley filed for divorce three days later, and Kitaen took a plea bargain requiring her to enter a counseling program.

Kitaen was charged with cocaine possession in 2006 and driving under the influence in 2009. She detailed her battle with substance abuse on “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.”

In her last Twitter post on Friday, she thanked a fan who drew a picture of her.