According to Variety, Kitaen died Friday night at her home in Newport Beach, Calif. A cause of death has yet to be determined.
Kitaen met and started dating Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby while the pair were still in high school in San Diego, and later served as the cover model for the band’s 1983 debut self-titled EP and their 1984 debut studio album, Out of the Cellar.
“We were like, first lovers,” Crosby, who died in 2002, said of their relationship in a television interview with American Journal. “It was peaches and cream for a long time, you know, she’s a lovely girl, obviously.”
“I lived with him,” Kitaen said in a podcast episode of Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon. “We moved in together when we were 15 and a half, 16 years old. So I had orange Marshall stacks in my bedroom and we were living with the bass player. The band that he was in was called Phenomenon. That was the band that he was in before he went up to Los Angeles. Yeah, I cut all of the guys’ hair in the band [laughs], I was the hair stylist, I was the, you know, ‘This is what you are going to wear.’”
Kitaen also appeared in various music videos for Whitesnake, including “Here I Go Again“, “Still of the Night”, “Is This Love” and “The Deeper the Love.” In 1989, she married lead singer David Coverdale but the pair divorced in 1991.
Coverdale commented on the sad news this morning, tweeting that he “just woke up to some very sad, unexpected news… Waiting on confirmation, but if it is true, my sincere condolences to her children, her family, friends & fans.”
“Claudia Schiffer was supposed to be ‘the Whitesnake woman,’ when she was the Guess Jeans girl,” Coverdale said to Heavy Consequence, remembering the original plans for the “Here I Go Again” video, “But that fell apart near the actual shoot. And I was taking Tawny out for dinner, when (video director) Marty Callner called me, and said, ‘You have to stop by, we have problems.’ We went to his house on the way to dinner, he opened the door, his jaw hit the floor — as you know, Tawny was an absolute beauty — and he said, ‘That’s her! She’s the Whitesnake woman!’ And I said, ‘Marty, this is a friend of mine. She’s an actress.’ And she said, ‘No David, I’m happy to do it!’”
Later in life, Kitaen had struggles with addiction and brushes with the law. This included arrest for spousal abuse in 2002 and charges for cocaine possession in 2006 and driving under the influence in 2009.