Today it’s been reported that actress Tawny Kitaen has died. She was only 59 years old at the time of her passing. It was reported by officials from Orange County, California, and then confirmed by her daughters Wynter and Raine to TMZ that she died at her home. As of this writing, the cause of death wasn’t known though it happened on Friday, May, 7th. There are few details around this tragic story other than the coroner has not confirmed the cause of death at this point.
Tawny Kitaen was born Julie Kitaen in 1961 and rose to fame in the 1980s starting first on television commercials and then fitness videos. She became a staple of the 1980s glam and hair rock scene when she began dating the drummer from RATT and then appeared on the cover of one of their albums. She would start an acting career and the movie Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks became one of her bigger roles at the time. This would lead to other performances and Tawny Kitaen became something of a “face” of the 1980s, known for her stunning beauty and the embodiment of the style and trends of the decade.
There would be other roles for Tawny Kitaen through the years, in lower-budget movies and some television series as well. She made many a cameo over the years, even showing up on an episode of Seinfeld in the early-90s, playing one of Jerry’s girlfriends. She parlayed that into a larger role on the reboot The New WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran for two seasons though she only participated in the first. She played Mona Loveland, a recreation of the Jennifer Marlowe character from the original show.
In later years Tawny Kitaen would do some work not the reality television circuit on shows like The Surreal Life, Botched, and Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. In this way, the ideas around her early celebrity were put on display, of sorts, to become cautionary tales of the industry and what effect it could have on those who captured the limelight rather quickly. On Botched Kitaen details some of the reasons behind plastic surgery later in life and on Celebrity Rehab there were more details on her battles with sobriety.
Her aforementioned daughters were from her marriage to former Major League Baseball pitcher Chuck Finley. The couple was together for three years though a series of domestic disputes ultimately ended that relationship. It’s unclear if Kitaen was living with someone at the time of her death.
Tawny Kitaen will go down as one of the definitive celebrities that came out of the 1980s and all its cultural touchpoints. The stunning beauty, hair, association with metal bands of the time, and roles in movies that captured the moment were all in line with how the public saw her. Though her later years may have been something of a struggle, dealing with the fallout of that fame, there’s no doubt she was firmly part of the zeitgeist for the time. It’s tragic to lose someone so young and there will likely be more details that emerge in the coming days.