Saturday, May 8, 2021

R.I.P., Tawny Kitaen

R.I.P. to Tawny Kitaen, who was more than "a video vixen" or a "BACHELOR PARTY co-star," even if it was by lightly gyrating upon the hoods of expensive cars in Whitesnake videos that she was catapulted to a form of stardom she could never quite escape. Having done a deep dive into her film work last summer, I found an actor of pathos, grand comedic timing, and real star power; a fashion bomb with huge statement bows and teased hair who was one of the great style icons of the 1980s. I wrote at length about her uncommon charisma in WITCHBOARD, CRYSTAL HEART, THE PERILS OF GWENDOLINE IN THE LAND OF THE YIK-YAK, and even in unworthy projects like WHITE HOT and GLORY YEARS. To quote my final installment "Of Whitesnakes and Witchboards... a Tawny Kitaen Retrospective":

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I received a communique from Tawny Kitaen during the course of this retrospective. She wanted everyone to know that 'I hope you get everything that I used to be embarrassed about... David Geffen's right-hand man called me Yoko Ono, I was so embarrassed back then... and then as I got older and realized that the success of [Whitesnake] had a little bit to do with the videos and what I brought to it, and it made me feel really, really good. So I guess if I had any words of wisdom, there's this old Jewish adage, and it goes: 'When you grow up, I wish employees on you.' So John Kalodner, an employee of David Geffen gave a perspective on me that was true, but he was trying to hurt me at the same time... he didn't know that years later his words would come back to haunt him in everything that I do, when I have to talk about my experience, and that was being the Yoko Ono of Whitesnake, so I hope you can throw that into your blog.'

Perhaps this is the best note to end the retrospective on: we've seen six films here, some of them good, some decent, and some bad, but Tawny's charisma has been a consistent baseline throughout. Whether or not history chooses to remember her as 'The Yoko Ono of Whitesnake' or, much less likely, 'The Scapegoat of WHITE HOT,' the ridiculousness of the insult––if it is indeed even such––can be worn as a badge of pride, because in each of these films, many of which are baldly sexist and/or underwritten, she brings much more to the part than is expected of her. Whether as a style icon, a screen presence, or as a skillful actor, she rises above the material. So here's your benediction: 'Tawny rises above.'


gweeps said...

59? Damn.

Looks like I finally need to watch Witchboard.

Sean Gill said...

Yeah, it's quite depressing. And she really elevates WITCHBOARD. THE PERILS OF GWENDOLINE is very much worth seeing, it's cult/adventure/arthouse/softcore/opera weirdness that I've called at different times, "Ken Russell's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES," "Fetish Dr. Seuss," "Fellini's DAWN OF THE DEAD" and "Written and Directed by Sting's Thong from David Lynch's DUNE."

Maurice Mickelwhite said...

At least she knew, man, at least she knew she was celebrated.

Sean Gill said...


Indeed. And thanks for stopping by!