Kathleen is the girl eulogized on husband Tom Waits' album Swordfishtrombones in the song entitled "Johnsburg, Illinois" (1983) which is her birthplace and where she was raised. As a writer herself, she became a huge influence in his music, as well as a collaborator, in many of his 1980s and 1990s projects
She and Waits met in 1980 during the filming of the Francis Ford Coppola film One from the Heart (1981). Waits was composing the original soundtrack for the film along with vocal accompanist Crystal Gayle. Kathleen worked at the film's Zoetrope Studio as a script analyst.