‘Family Affair’: The Tragic Death of Buffy Actress Anissa Jones at Age 18

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Family Affair fans remembered how Anissa Jones charmed audiences. She played Buffy, twin to Jody and younger sister of Cissy. They all were orphans, who moved in with their Uncle Bill and his butler, Mr. French.

Family Affair told the story of Bill Davis, a rich, worldly bachelor, who lived in a tony Upper Eastside apartment in New York. He took in his nephew and two nieces and learned how to raise three children with a lot of help from his valet.

The same folks who created “My Three Sons” brought the TV world Family Affair. The series ranked among the top five most popular shows in the country in three of the five seasons that it aired between 1966-70.

And fans loved Buffy, the precious young girl who wore her hair in two curly pigtails and carried around a Mrs. Beasley doll.

Before Family Affair, Anissa Jones Was in National Cereal Commercial

Anissa Jones started acting at a really young age, after her parents moved from Indiana to California. Her father was an aerospace engineer and former professor. She had an older brother. Anissa’s first role was in a commercial for breakfast cereal. By age 8, she earned the role of Buffy.

Once Family Affair was canceled, she still got some guest starring roles. She made appearances on talk shows. She was in three episodes of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. Her last TV appearance was in 1971 on the The Dick Cavett Show. She was 13.

She was in one movie, playing Carol in The Trouble with Girls. That was in 1969. Elvis Presley was the star — it was one of his final roles, too. The movie had other actors who went on to fame. Susan Olson was in the movie. She was better known as Cindy Brady on the Brady Bunch.

Ten days after the movie’s premiere, Nicole Jaffe (Velma) and Frank Welker (Fred) became voice actors on the animated Saturday morning series Scooby-Doo.

When Family Affair was canceled in 1971, Jones declared that she wanted to work only in movies. She turned down a role on the Brian Keith Show. That would’ve given her another show with Keith, who starred as Uncle Bill on Family Affair.

She auditioned for a role in the Exorcist. But the director saw visions of cute little Buffy being possessed by a demon. He picked Linda Blair. Jones turned down the chance to audition for a part in Taxi Driver. Jodie Foster won the role.

Jones Craved Normal Life, But She Was Troubled Teen-Ager

Without acting, Jones returned to the normal life of a teenager. And, her family life was hellish. Her parents divorced and fought for custody over their two children. The judge awarded custody to the father, but he died in 1973 of heart disease.

Soon after, Jones was listed as a runaway. She was arrested for shoplifting and spent months in juvenile detention. After she was released from jail, she lived with her mother. Jones found work at a doughnut shop. Friends said she felt embarrassed when customers recognized her from Family Affair.

On March 11, 1976, Jones celebrated her 18th birthday. It meant financial independence. She gained control of her savings from working on Family Affair and other money she had in trust. She had more than $280,000 in the account from her acting. In today’s dollars, the amount was more than $1 million.

But within six weeks, Jones was dead. On April 28, she was found unresponsive at a friend’s home. Autopsy showed a toxic mix of cocaine, PCP, quaaludes and Seconal, a sleeping aid. The coroner listed the cause of death as an accidental overdose.

The family’s heartbreak continued. Paul, Anissa’s younger brother, died of a drug overdose in 1984. He was only 24.

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