On March 11, Anissa Jones would have celebrated her 61st birthday, that fact led to a trip down memory lane and to “Family Affair” where it all began.
Born on March 11, 1958, to parents John Jones and Mary Tweel in West Lafayette, Indiana, the family moved to Playa del Rey, California when Anissa was still very young. Mary wanted to give Anissa the best chance of becoming a star in showbiz.
While other children her age played, Mary drove Anissa to learn more skills that would count in her favor in the industry. She was four years old when Mary enrolled her in dance classes.
At the age of six, Anissa snagged her first role advertising cereal in a television commercial, and two years later she landed the role of Buffy in “Family Affair.” Buffy had a doll named Mrs. Beasley that went wherever she did; it became so popular that it became America’s best selling doll during the comedy’s run.
Buffy and her doll became household names, and their faces were on merchandise everywhere. “Family Affair” lunch boxes and coloring books were popular; there were also Buffy paper dolls, a Buffy children’s clothing line, as well as a 1971 cookbook with Anissa’s face on the cover. She was eight years old and famous.
When the comedy got canceled after five seasons in 1971, Anissa was relieved. She felt her role as Buffy became stagnant, as producers insisted on her continuing to play with Mrs. Beasley even though she got older. The work was grueling, and for once she just wanted to be a regular 13-year-old girl.
Her divorced mother’s continual drive for Anissa to succeed in the industry and her need for other things in life as well drove them apart. To the point where she and her brother, Paul moved in with their father.
Sadly shortly after their father gained custody of Anissa and Paul in 1973, he died of heart disease, and the siblings were forced to go back to their mother.
Anissa spent as little time at home as possible and started to keep the wrong company. Piled on top of her newly found drug and party habits, her grades began to drop, it infuriated her mother.
Some time spent in juvenile detention only delayed things to come. The beach parties and the drinking and all the drugs escalated for two more years until Anissa turned 18.
At legal age, Anissa’s US Savings Bonds from her “Family Affair” earnings would become available to her in the amount of $177,800. Suddenly she had more money than she knew what to do with.
Actually, she did know, Anissa bought a place for her and her brother to stay and spoiled him with a stacked out Camero. And she bought drugs, lots of drugs.
Her boyfriend at the time, Allan Kovan did little to curb her enthusiasm and generosity with the drugs and presents and parties.
On August 28, 1976, while at a friend’s house party, Anissa took a cocktail of barbiturates, phencyclidine, cocaine, and methaqualone. It was drugs she was known to use, but on that night it would be her last.
As soon as her friends found 18-year-old Anissa, they called the paramedics, but it was too late. The coroner called it one of the most massive overdoses he’d ever seen. Eight years later her brother Paul also died from a drug overdose.
For “Family Affair” costar Brian Keith life was also hard to cope with. He got diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema early in 1997, in April that year his daughter committed suicide.
Chemotherapy was rough on Brian, and apparently, he also suffered from financial troubles. Unable to get past the death of his daughter and deal with everything else on top of it all, he decided to end it all on June 24, 1997, when he shot himself in the head.
Other cast members from “Family Affair” died as well, death seems to be around everyone that starred in the show.
This has led to many calling the comedy show “cursed,” and with only two cast members still alive, one recently answered that question.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.