Rock fans on Saturday mourned the loss of Julie E. “Tawny” Kitaen, who died Friday night at her home in Newport Beach, Calif. at the age of 59. The actress and model starred in several Whitesnake videos and graced the covers of Ratt‘s self-titled debut EP and debut full-length, Out of the Cellar.
Kitaen met and started dating late Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby while the two were still attending high school in San Diego. In Nothin’ But a Good Time, Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock’s 2021 oral history of the ’80s hard rock and metal scene in Los Angeles, Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy recalls him and Crosby throwing live rats at Kitaen’s fishnet-covered legs for the Ratt cover shoot.
“It was just some weird idea — ‘Get some rats, throw ’em on her legs, it’ll be kinda creepy.’ So we did,” Pearcy says in the book. “And Tawny was a little squeamish but she went with it. She was a trooper!”
There was just one hiccup during the shoot. “We rented five white rats. But if you look closely at the cover, there’s a sixth one. Black,” Pearcy says. “Don’t know where that came from.”
Kitaen also appears in the video for the band’s “Back for More” video.
She told music journalist and podcaster Mitch Lafon last year that she and Crosby lived together as teenagers. “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,” she recalled. “Yeah, I cut all of the guys’ hair in the band [laughs], I was the hair stylist.”
Kitaen also revealed that she kept in touch with Crosby up until his death in 2002 due to AIDS-related complications. “He said, ‘I wish we would have had children,’” Kitaen told Lafon. “And that just broke my heart. Because I was in a marriage and I had two children. But Robb was the love of my life, and to not have had a child with the love of my life… It would have been a wonderful time. I can’t even put into words what that would mean to me.”