The Difficult Childhood of Anissa Jones from “Family Affair” and the Tragic Story of Her Death in 1976

Monica Otayza
Sep 09, 2021
08:42 P.M.
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Anissa Jones was trapped in the role of little Buffy from "Family Affair" and when she finally got away from it all, her life was tragically cut short.

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Anissa Jones was born on March 11, 1958, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Her mother, Mary Paula Jones, studied zoology, while her father was an engineer. He got a job in aerospace engineering and their family moved to California because of it.

Jones was just six years old when she first made her television debut through a breakfast cereal advertisement. Two years later, she would go on to star in the hit sitcom, "Family Affair." 

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MAKING IT BIG

At just eight years old, Jones was working long hours and getting little time to interact with her peers. She mostly worked alongside Johnny Whitaker and Kathy Garver, her brother and sister on the show. 

Her character, Buffy, was famous for her charm and for her favorite doll named Mrs. Beasley. Mattel would use the adorable child to sell the doll and other merchandise including lunch boxes, clothing, a cookbook, and coloring books. 

Anissa Jones, late child star | Source: Wikimedia Commons By CBS Television Network, Public Domain,

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SHE WANTED MORE

The show went on from 1966 to 1971, when Jones was 13 years old. After the show, she struggled to get more roles as people knew her for being Buffy.

In 1969, she did land a part in "The Trouble with Girls," an Elvis Presley film that starred various other child actors. However, after that stint, work was sparse.

Anissa Jones and Johnny Whitaker of "Family Affair" | Source: Wikimedia Commons By CBS Television Network, Public Domain

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HER REBELLIOUS WAYS

People were unable to see Jones as more than the character she grew up playing, so when she tried for new parts, like 1973's "The Exorcist," she was turned down. She wanted more than television roles, so she also turned down offers from "The Brian Keith Show" and "Taxi Driver."

Just before she rose to fame, Jones' parents divorced and were engaged in a lengthy custody battle. In 1973, Jones went to live with her father. He passed away soon after, a factor that caused her to become rebellious.

Publicity photo of the cast of "Family Affair" in 1967 | Source: Wikimedia Commons By CBS, Public Domain

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HER TEENAGE YEARS

Jones was sent to live with a friend. She would often skip school, eventually getting arrested and going to juvenile hall for months. Her mother finally took her in, but it didn't prevent her from getting into drugs and shoplifting. 

Jones dropped out of high school in 1975. The next year, she received her trust fund savings when she turned 18. It amounted to $180,000, plus an unknown amount from her savings bonds. 

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HER TRAGIC DEATH

When Jones turned 18, she and her brother rented out an apartment close to their mother. A mere five months later, Jones died from a drug overdose at a party she attended with her new boyfriend.

Medical examiners found cocaine, Quaaludes, PCP, and Seconal in her system. They also collected a blue liquid near her but could not specify what it was. 

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HER DOCTOR'S PRESCRIPTION

Jones' family had her body cremated and spread the ashes over the Pacific Ocean. Yet it wasn't the end of her story. Authorities would go on to arrest Jones' doctor within a week of her death. 

They alleged he illegally prescribed Seconal to Jones and charged him with multiple offenses. Four months later, the doctor also died. Jones' family sued his estate and received $79,500. 

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HER FAMILY'S TRAGIC END

Jones was remembered by many who knew her as an intelligent girl. She did not like being remembered as a member of "Familly Affair," but instead, she liked talking about deeper things, like poetry. 

Unfortunately, she never got to reach her full potential due to her death. Like the child star, her brother Paul passed away at 24 in March 1984 from an overdose. Their mother survived them both and died in 2012. 

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HER FRIEND KATHY GARVER

Another "Family Affair" cast member who was almost typecasted for her role on the show was Kathy Garver. She was known on the sitcom as Catherine, "Cissy" Patterson-Davis.

Garver and Jones were good friends on the show, having sleepovers at least a couple of times according to Garver's interview with Fox News. When it ended, they went their separate ways. 

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THEIR LAST INTERACTION

Still, Garver remained a friend of Jones, even attending her 18th birthday party. There, she described Jones as "fine and happy to see me." 

She claimed that Mary advised her to spend more time with Jones, but Garver had to do a musical on the East Coast soon after the party. She was still working when she got the news.

Kathy Garver on April 19, 2009 in Universal City, California | Source: Getty Images

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Garver said she was not able to cope well with the tragedy. However, she went on to attain success in both her personal and professional life. She's been married for 36 years and has a 28-year-old son who teaches her to cook. 

At 75, Garver may not be recognizable from her time on "Family Affair," but she sure looks good regardless. She stays active by developing as many entertainment skills as she can, and it's paying off in more ways than one.

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