‘Family Affair’ Star Johnny Whitaker Opened Up About His Struggles for Sobriety

by Suzanne Halliburton
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The Family Affair twins were the cutest first graders on TV. The country fell in love with Buffy and Jody, along with the entire premise of the show.

On the series, Bill Davis (Brian Keith) was a single man who traveled the world as a civil engineer. He employed a British valet named Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot). And the two resided in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Then one day he learned his brother and sister-in-law were killed in a car crash back home in Indiana. Bill now was the guardian of 15-year-old Cissy and 5-year-old twins, Buffy and Jody. It truly became a Family Affair as Uncle Bill needed to tweak his bachelor life, while Mr. French became the de facto nanny.

Family Affair, from the creators of My Three Sons, ran from 1966-71. And the country was entranced with the family dynamics of the show. The series ranked among the nation’s top 10 most viewed shows in three of its five seasons.

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Johnny Whitaker Was Youngest Family Affair Cast Member

Johnny Whitaker was six years old when he got the part of Jody. Anissa Jones was 8 when she became Buffy, Jody’s twin who wore her hair in curly pig tails and carried around a Mrs. Beasley doll.

Whitaker was even younger when he first worked with Brian Keith on the movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians are Coming. In fact, Whitaker told Studio 10 in 2018 that Keith recommended him for Jody.

So many of the actors on Family Affair had significant problems later in life. Jones died of a drug overdose when she was only 18. Cabot died after suffering a stroke, six years after Family Affair went off the air. He was only 59.

Keith committed suicide when he was 75. This was in 1997 and two months after Keith’s daughter took her own life. Plus, Keith suffered from COPD and had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Whitaker wasn’t immune from life problems, either. He became addicted to drugs in the 1980s. His acting career stalled after a successful stint when he was a kid. He was the first-ever actor to play Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital. Scotty still is with the show, although he’s played by 68-year-old Kin Shriner. Whitaker also starred in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and was included in a couple of Disney movies.

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Actor Said He Developed Addictions in 1980s

After his wife left him wife in the 1980s, Whitaker told Fox News he developed addictions to drug and alcohol.

“With that, I lost my faith in God and man and the world,” Whitaker said, adding that it lasted for almost eight years.

Then Whitaker recalled his family giving him some tough love. “My family said, ‘You have a choice between getting clean and sober or getting excommunicated from the family.'”

But Whitaker turned his life around by helping others who shared his struggles. He became an addiction counselor and started the non-profit Paso por Paso. He also advocates for prison reform.

Whitaker, who turned 62 last month, still takes acting projects. And he goes to gathering for fans of Family Affair. Meanwhile, Cathy Garver, who portrayed big sister, Cissy, is 76. She’s still active in the acting business and does voice over work. She’s even written books about Family Affair and other topics.