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Tawny Kitaen: Who she is today

Beauty known for Whitesnake videos has come through hard times to focus on motherhood, helping abused women, she says.

August 27, 2010|By Joanna Clay, joanna.clay@latimes.com
  • Actress Tawny Kitaen is a Newport Beach resident who now donates time to helping victims of domestic violence, among other issues.
Actress Tawny Kitaen is a Newport Beach resident who now… (Kent Treptow, Daily…)

NEWPORT BEACH — Sitting on an oversized plush chair in baseball legend Chuck Finley's Newport Beach home, actress Tawny Kitaen seems to be in a much different place than she was eight years ago. A soccer goal is visible in the backyard, and her daughter's art covers the refrigerator in the family home.

Her adopted dog, Woody, nuzzles Kitaen as she talks about a new off-camera passion: helping others.

A volunteer at Kathy's House, a shelter for at-risk women in San Juan Capistrano, and a member of the board of directors at Testimony Life Resources, an alternative counseling center, Kitaen appears to be a far cry from her role as the eccentric star of "The Surreal Life," or the woman battling a dependency on prescription pills on "Celebrity Rehab."

For Kitaen, the last eight years have not been easy. Originally, the San Diego native, whose real first name is Julie, achieved fame for her presence in the 1980s heavy metal scene. Known as the iconic, cart-wheeling redhead in Whitesnake's 1987 video "Here I Go Again," Kitaen later became the wife of front man David Coverdale and appeared in films such as "Bachelor Party" alongside Tom Hanks and on the TV show "The New WKRP in Cincinnati."

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After their divorce, she graced the pages of People magazine for moving on and trading vows with Finley, arguably one of the most celebrated Angels pitchers in team history.

However, on April 4, 2002, Kitaen ended up in the news for much different reasons.

The Daily Pilot reported that Newport Beach police had arrested her for allegedly attacking her husband in their SUV a few blocks from their home. Finley had cuts, bruises and scratches to his hands and face. Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Shulman said the incident occurred in the vehicle but the 911 hang-up call came from the couple's Newport Coast home.

Kitaen pleaded not guilty to the charges of domestic violence, and the case was dismissed in 2003 after she attended court-mandated counseling. When she and Finley divorced, she released a statement saying she was being treated for a dependency on prescription drugs and vowed to become "the healthiest and the best mother possible" to her two daughters.

Today, Kitaen maintains that the media misrepresented elements of that story.

"It got blown out of proportion … completely blown out of proportion," Kitaen says. "If Chuck was sitting right here he would tell you the exact same thing."

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