She Was 'Family Affair's Buffy: Anissa Jones's Tragic Death

By | October 9, 2018

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'Family Affair' Actress Anissa Jones during filming of the television show 'Family Affair,' 1967. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Whatever happened to Anissa Jones, who played Buffy from Family Affair, the little girl audiences couldn’t help but love? Her story is a tragic one of a child actor's huge success, frustration over typecasting, and descent into drugs. Anissa Jones' death from a combination of cocaine, PCP and other drugs exposed a dark side of child stardom in Hollywood, and casts a shadow over a feel-good show that entertained a generation of TV viewers.

At eight years old, Anissa was cast as Buffy on Family Affair, which aired from 1966 until 1971. The show told the story of Buffy, her twin brother Jody (Johnny Whitaker), and their older sister Cissy (Kathy Garver), who all go live with their uncle in New York after their parents die in a car accident. Their "Uncle Bill" (Brian Keith) is a bachelor who knows nothing about taking care of kids, so he enlists the help of his valet, Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot). The life of a child actor or actress is very hard. often demanding long hours on the set that disrupt the normal process of education and socialization children need.

Before Family Affair, Anissa Jones had made her first television appearance in a breakfast cereal commercial when she was only six years old.

The 'Family' Business

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A 'Family Affair' Lunch Box from 1969. Source: eBay

Buffy famously doll loved her doll, "Mrs. Beasley," which was used as a promotional gimmick for the show and sold by Mattel. Other toys and items that were marketed include paper dolls, lunch boxes, coloring books, clothing, and even a cookbook with Buffy’s picture on the cover. By the time Family Affair was canceled, Anissa was 13 years old, and she was glad to not have to be seen holding that doll any longer.

In addition to Family Affair, Anissa Jones did the usual celebrity guest appearances on talk and variety shows, including Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Dick Cavett Show, which was her last appearance on television, in 1971.