Tawny Kitaen
Tawny Kitaen. Photo from her Facebook page

Actress and model Tawny Kitaen, a San Diego native best known for her roles in 1980s music videos, died in May of heart disease, the Orange County Coroner’s Office confirmed Friday.

Officials ruled Kitaen’s death natural and attributed it to dilated cardiomyopathy.

The office reported another contributing factor, mild coronary atherosclerosis. Kitaen also had mirtazapine, an antidepressant; mirtazapine metabolite; alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, as well as the painkillers acetaminophen, pregabalin and hydrocodone in her system.

She died about 8 a.m. on May 7 in her Newport Beach home.

Kitaen, 59, was also the ex-wife of Whitesnake singer David Coverdale and former Angels pitcher Chuck Finley. Her two children with Finley, Wynter and Raine, posted a message about their mother a day later.

“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.”

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 album covers and in videos for hard-rock bands.

She also appeared in movies, including a major role in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party” as the fiancé of the lead character played by Tom Hanks. Her other films include 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 on the hood of a car.

She married Coverdale in 1989. They divorced in 1991.

She married Finley six years later. 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.”

Later, Kitaen appeared on the VH1 reality shows “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”

– City News Service