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Anissa Jones in 1970
|Born||Mary Anissa Jones
March 11, 1958
West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||August 28, 1976
Oceanside, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Mary Anissa Jones (/ /; March 11, 1958 – August 28, 1976) was an American child actress known for her role as Buffy on the CBS sitcom Family Affair. She died from combined drug intoxication at the age of 18.
Jones was born in West Lafayette, Indiana. Her maternal grandparents were Lebanese: her middle name means "Little Friend" in Arabic. At the time of her birth, father John Paul Jones was an engineering graduate and faculty board member at Purdue University and mother Mary Paula Jones (née Tweel) was a zoology student there. Soon after the birth of Anissa's brother John Paul Jones, Jr., the family moved to Playa Del Rey, California where father John took a job in aerospace engineering. When she was two years old, Jones' mother enrolled her in dance classes. In 1964, when she was six, Jones' mother took her to an open audition for a breakfast cereal commercial, which became her first television appearance. She attended Paseo Del Rey Grammar School and, later, Orville Wright Junior High School.
Jones was eight when her acting skills drew the attention of television producers, and she was cast as Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis on the CBS sitcom Family Affair (1966). In the opening plotline, Buffy, her twin brother, Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and older sister Cissy (Kathy Garver) are sent to live with their Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) and his valet Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) a year after the children's parents die in a car accident (The DVD collection notes mistakenly state "plane accident"). By July 1969, the series had become a hit and Jones became a popular child celebrity.:28 That year, she also played the role of Carol Bix in the Elvis Presley comedy film The Trouble with Girls.
Family Affair was a grueling, full-time, year-'round job for Jones: she was often either shooting or promoting the show in public, seven days a week. Through each of the first three seasons, up to 30 episodes were broadcast. This contrasts with later American television serial shows that shoot fewer than 25 episodes each season, allowing more breaks in filming and requiring fewer promotional appearances for the actors. In April of 1969, Jones broke her right leg in a playground accident, and the producers had her injury written into the show's scripts.
Jones' Buffy character had a doll named "Mrs. Beasley", which she claimed talked to her, often making funny comments. When the show became a hit, the doll was marketed by Mattel and became a best-seller in North America. Mattel also marketed two other dolls, patterned after Buffy: one in the size of their "Tutti" line of dolls and another in their talking "Small Talk" line, which featured eight different phrases (using Jones' voice). Jones took part in several other lucrative Family Affair product marketing campaigns such as Buffy paper dolls, lunch boxes, a clothing line, coloring books and a 1971 cookbook with her picture on the cover.
Family Affair was cancelled abruptly by CBS in 1971, after five seasons and 138 episodes. By then, Jones was 13 years old and said she was happy at the thought of no longer needing to be seen with the doll. She wanted to act in films but, as can happen with any successful actor, whether child or adult, Jones could not find the kind of work she wanted. She auditioned for the part of Regan MacNeil in the film The Exorcist, but the director, William Friedkin felt that, with Family Affair still in popular consciousness at the time through syndicated daytime reruns, movie audiences might have thought Buffy was the one being possessed. Meanwhile, Brian Keith kept in touch with Jones through letters and offered her a young-adult role on The Brian Keith Show (1972–1974). Keith told her she would not need to audition for the part, but, by then, Jones no longer wanted to work in television.
Jones' parents had initiated a bitter divorce in 1965 and carried on a long feud over custody of Anissa and her younger brother, Paul. In 1973, custody of both children was awarded to their father, but he died of heart disease shortly thereafter. While her brother went to live with their mother, Jones moved in with a friend and began skipping school. Her mother reported Jones to the police as a runaway. She was arrested and sent to juvenile hall, spending many months in state custody, after which she was allowed to live with her mother; however, Jones began shoplifting and taking drugs. In 1975, she dropped out of high school altogether and briefly worked at Winchell's Donut shop in Playa Del Rey. She often felt embarrassed whenever customers recognized who she was.
On her 18th birthday, in March of 1976, Jones gained control of saved earnings from her work in Family Affair, about $180,000 (equal to $746,000 today), which was being held in a trust fund and U.S. Savings Bonds. Jones and her brother Paul then rented an apartment together, not far from their mother.
Shortly before noon on August 28, 1976, after partying all night in the beach town of Oceanside, California with her new boyfriend Allan "Butch" Koven and others, Jones was found dead in the bedroom of a house belonging to the father of a 14-year-old friend named Helen Hennessy.:28 The coroner's report listed her death as an accidental drug overdose: cocaine, PCP, Quaaludes and Seconal were found in her body during an autopsy toxicology examination. The coroner who examined Jones reported she died from one of the most severe drug overdoses he had ever seen. Anissa Jones was only 18 years old.:28
Six days after Jones' death, Dr. Don Carlos Moshos, who had prescribed the Seconal identified in Jones' toxicology report, was arrested and charged with illegally prescribing the drug to Jones, among other drugs-for-profit charges from a concurrent criminal investigation. While awaiting trial, Moshos died of a terminal illness. His estate was sued by Jones' surviving family for $400,000; in July 1979, the verdict found Dr. Moshos 30% liable and Jones 70% responsible for her death and the resulting judgment was reduced to $79,500.
In 1984, her brother Paul also died of a drug overdose. He was 24 years old. :29 In 2010, her mother Mary Paula Jones died. There were no surviving heirs to the family name.
In popular culture
In 1978, Canadian punk-rock group The Diodes recorded Child Star, detailing Anissa's death by overdose in a sound and style reminiscent of The Ramones. In 1983, Hillary Carlip and her band, "Angel and the Reruns", recorded Buffy Come Back, a satiric tribute to the late Jones, set to the refrain of the Family Affair theme song.
|1966 to 1971||Family Affair||Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis||138 episodes|
|1969||The Trouble with Girls||Carol Bix|
|1970||To Rome With Love||Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis||Episode: "Roman Affair"|
- Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 251. ISBN 0-7407-5118-2.
- Stephens, John G. (2005). From My Three Sons to Major Dad: My Life as a TV Producer. Scarecrow Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-8108-5279-9.
- Brioux, Bill (2007). Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-99247-0.
- Benoit, Tod (2009). Where Are They Buried?: How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy. Black Dog Publishing. p. 163. ISBN 1-57912-822-X.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Anissa Jones.|
- Anissa Jones at the Internet Movie Database
- "Anissa Jones". Find a Grave. Retrieved September 14, 2010.