Jerry Oppenheimer is a New York Times bestselling author whose 13 books have included biographies of American icons such as the Clintons, the Kardashians and Jerry Seinfeld.
Troubled actress Tawny Kitaen had several high-profile relationships and marriages throughout her scandal-filled life, but perhaps her oddest and most little known romance was with the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, DailyMail.com can reveal.
The 59-year-old, who died of unknown causes last Friday, shared intimate details of their relationship in an exclusive interview years before her death.
Seinfeld was apparently so smitten with Kitaen, he told close friend Mike Costanza – the inspiration for Seinfeld character George Costanza – that being with her was ‘like being in the presence of greatness.’
Kitaen was known to have had a tumultuous personal life, which included a brief marriage to Whitesnake’s lead singer, David Coverdale, and a rocky marriage to baseball pitcher Chuck Finley, with whom she had two daughters.
Tawny Kitaen (pictured in 2017) shared details about her secret romance with Jerry Seinfeld in an interview with author Jerry Oppenheimer, years before her death
The actress famously guest starred in a 1991 episode of Seinfeld, ‘The Nose Job,’ where she played Jerry’s sexy girlfriend Isabel
She first gained recognition in the 1980s as a ‘video vixen’ who starred in several music videos for rock bands including Whitesnake and began dating Coverdale after meeting him on set.
Coverdale called Kitaen ‘my whore and my inspiration.’ The two divorced in 1991.
Friends of Seinfeld (pictured in 2018) said the comedian was so smitten with Kitaen, he described being with her like ‘being in the presence of greatness’
According to Seinfeld, Kitaen was unlike any other woman he had ever pursued.
She had a body to die for and a thick mane of red hair, wore the skimpiest clothing, and had ‘lived what seemed like three lifetimes compared to his insulated and focused world,’ as I wrote in my 2002 biography, Seinfeld: The Making of an American Icon.
Among her string of high-profile relationships was her year-long affair with O.J. Simpson during his marriage to Nicole Brown Simpson – who he was accused and later acquitted of murdering.
He admitted to being unfaithful to Nicole during the civil case filed by her family and the family of her slain friend, Ronald Goldman.
Before Seinfeld, Kitaen was also romantically involved with the rocker Tommy Lee, future husband of Baywatch bombshell Pamela Anderson.
Kitaen had gotten her big break in Hollywood as Tom Hanks’s costar in the 1984 sophomoric romp, Bachelor Party, billed as ‘shameless’ and ‘sinful.’
By the time Seinfeld, who was seven years her senior, began seeing Kitaen in the early 1990s, she was playing Mona Loveland, a sexy nighttime DJ on the popular sitcom, The New WKRP in Cincinnati.
On the show, Kitaen played a gorgeous but vapid model, with whom Jerry became infatuated and had wild sex
At the time she was cast on the show, Kitaen had a role on popular sitcom, The New WKRP in Cincinnati as Mona Loveland, a sexy nighttime DJ. The two met on the Studio City lot, where both shows were filmed
During the course of my research for the Seinfeld biography, I had a number of interviews with Kitaen who candidly agreed to discuss her involvement with Seinfeld including how they met on the Studio City lot, where their shows were shot, and intimate details of their relationship.
‘Our sets, Jerry’s office, our little dressing room trailers, were all within 60 feet of each other. How fortunate is that – to have your office right next door to your boyfriend’s,’ Kitaen said at the time.
‘That was pretty cool. We’d see each other every day, we started talking, and he invited me to appear on his show.’
Kitaen was cast on a 1991 episode called ‘The Nose Job,’ in which she played Seinfeld’s new girlfriend – a gorgeous but vapid model named Isabel, with whom he became infatuated and had wild sex.
In a breakthrough scene for prime time, family-oriented TV, Jerry’s brain and penis were depicted playing a game of chess, with the winner deciding whether he should continue sleeping with her.
Kitaen said after the episode was filmed, she and Jerry began seeing each other seriously, but they’d play it innocently at the studio.
‘At first, we’d be very low-key about it,’ she said. ‘Knowing people were always watching, we’d be on the lot and say, “Hello, how are you doing today?” That sort of thing.
‘And then we finally said, “What the hell are we doing?” And we’d hug and hold hands.’
Their relationship would then turn intimate.
‘We definitely had an enormous fondness for each other,’ Kitaen said.
Kitaen with Dave Coverdale of Whitesnake at the Fifth Annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1988. The couple married in 1989 and split up two years later
Kitaen with second husband baseball star Chuck Finley and one of their daughters Winter in 1992. Kitaen revealed she ended things with Seinfeld after she went back to Finley and became pregnant
The rock video vixen had several high-profile relationships and marriages throughout her scandal-filled life. She had a year-long affair with OJ Simpson, while he was still married to slain wife Nicole and was also romantically involved with the rocker Tommy Lee before he married Pamela Anderson
And Seinfeld was so excited about his Kitaen relationship that he later let the cat out of the bag publicly during an appearance on Howard Stern’s popular radio show – but without her consent.
The disclosure of their romance was instantly picked up by the wider media, from The Washington Post to the National Enquirer.
‘Jerry wasn’t afraid of telling anybody,’ Kitaen told me. ‘There was an article in the Enquirer about him for the first time – about us. He was so giddy about that.
‘He called his mother and said, “Look at me and Tawny, we’re in the Enquirer. He felt he had made it.”
As the relationship progressed, Seinfeld would send her love notes and bouquets of flowers, and she’d walk by his glass-walled corner office at the studio, catch his eye and do something silly and sexy.
On weekends, they took drives up the coast and had romantic stays at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. She recalled that he was so tired on the return trip that she had to drive him home.
And while Seinfeld had one of the biggest hit shows on TV and was quickly becoming a multimillionaire, he was frugal when it came to giving Kitaen gifts, she revealed.
He gave her a teddy bear and a Coach leather purse – despite driving to the studio lot each day in a different Porsche from his newly purchased mansion.
‘Jerry had nothing else to really spend his money on. He was just amazed that he could buy so many tennis shoes and Porsches. He was like, “Wow I can do this. Cool!”‘ she recalled.
‘But he wasn’t the kind of guy who wore a gold Rolex with his left arm out the window of his Porsche going, “Hey, Baby.” If he was, I wouldn’t have spent a second with him.’
Kitaen was known to have had a tumultuous personal life. She is pictured in a mugshot in 2002 after she was accused of hitting then-husband Chuck Finley
And Kitaen, Jerry quickly learned, was far different from her public bimbo image.
When she was with Coverdale, she had chosen all the successful Whitesnake albums – the singles, the covers, the photographers.
Born to a Jewish father and a gentile mother, Kitaen was raised as a Jew, which appealed to the Jewish Seinfeld, who grew up in the Long Island city of Massapequa, which he famously joked was ‘American Indian’ for ‘near the mall.’
Kitaen noted that her family came right from Ellis Island to San Diego, which ‘was important for Jerry.’
Oddly, despite their close bond, Seinfeld never asked Kitaen to move in with him.
‘He’d go back to his place, and we’d end up at ten o’clock in the morning driving into the studio guard-gate at the same time,’ she said.
She suggested that while Seinfeld was a ‘gorgeous, extremely attractive man’, she definitely didn’t go out with him because he was [another well endowed, wild lover] like Tommy Lee.
‘And the reason I didn’t stay with Tommy was because he wasn’t exactly a Jerry Seinfeld,’ she said.
The relationship lasted about a year, ending when she discovered she was pregnant.
For a very brief time, they thought the baby could be Jerry’s, Kitaen told me.
But the father was, in fact, her old boyfriend, Chuck Finley, who Kitaen had started secretly seeing again behind Seinfeld’s back.
During one of her and Seinfeld’s weekends in Santa Barbara, Finley called out of the blue and left a message for Kitaen.
Tawny Kitaen in the 1984 hit movie Bachelor Party where she starred alongside Tom Hanks
In recent years she has had stints on several reality shows including The Ex-Wives Club (pictured with Angie Everhart, Marla Maples and Shar Jackson on the show)
The next weekend she flew to Seattle to be with him, and ‘a month later I was pregnant,’ she said.
She believed Seinfeld would be ‘devastated’ when she told him what was going on.
‘I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to stop our friendship,’ Kitaen explained.
Instead, he didn’t seem to care, gave her a big hug, and told her ‘he was happy that I was happy.’
After it ended, Seinfeld’s friends told me in interviews that his relationships with women post-Tawny Kitaen ‘became more shallow.’
According to Mike Costanza, who had first bonded with Seinfeld when they were college students: ‘It was very funny to hear Jerry tell me, “Mike, I just hang out at the bar at the China Club and the women are standing on line to give me their phone numbers.”
‘I said, “Jerry, you’ve come a long way for someone who couldn’t even get a date.”
‘But now he was bragging. He had hit the jackpot.’
Seinfeld, who turned 67 last month, has been married to wife Jessica since 1999, and has three children.
Kitaen, who would have turned 60 years old this August, is survived by her two daughters, a sister and a brother.
The television star had had a long history of drug problems – addiction to cocaine and painkillers. And she revealed in an interview in 2010 that she had been a survivor of domestic violence.
After her divorce from Finley she had become involved with a man who had physically and verbally abused her, she said.
The cause of her death at her Newport Beach, California, home has not been immediately determined.
Her daughters, Wynter Finley, 28, and Raine Finley, 22, paid tribute to their mom on Instagram after her passing.
‘We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom. We miss her and love her and we know her legacy will live on forever.’