Anissa Jones

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Anissa Jones
Family Affair Anissa Jones 1970.jpg
Anissa Jones in 1970
Mary Anissa Jones

(1958-03-11)March 11, 1958
DiedAugust 28, 1976(1976-08-28) (aged 18)
Cause of deathDrug overdose
OccupationActress, Student
Years active1966–1971

Mary Anissa Jones (/əˈnsə/; March 11, 1958 – August 28, 1976) was an American child actress known for her role as Buffy on the CBS sitcom Family Affair, which ran from 1966 to 1971. She died from combined drug intoxication at the age of 18.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jones was born in Lafayette, Indiana. Her maternal grandparents were Lebanese, and Jones' middle name means "Little Friend" in Arabic.

At the time of her birth, Jones' father John Paul Jones was an engineering graduate and faculty board member at Purdue University, where her mother Mary Paula Jones (née Tweel) was a zoology student. Soon after the birth of Anissa's brother John Paul Jones, Jr. (called "Paul" by the family), the family moved to Playa Del Rey, California, where John Paul, Sr. took a job in aerospace engineering and Jones attended Paseo del Rey Elementary School, then Orville Wright Junior High School. [2]


When Jones was two years old, her mother enrolled her in dance classes. In 1964, when Jones was six, Mary Paula took her daughter to an open audition for a breakfast cereal commercial, which became Jones' first television appearance.

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[3] (the DVD collection notes mistakenly state "plane accident"). By July 1969, the series had become a hit, and Jones became a popular child celebrity.[4]:28 She also played the role of Carol Bix in the Elvis Presley comedy film The Trouble with Girls (1969).

Jones with Johnny Whitaker on Family Affair, 1967

Family Affair was a grueling, full-time, year-'round job for Jones: she was often either shooting the show or promoting it in public, seven days a week. Through each of the first three seasons, up to 30 programs were filmed for broadcast. This contrasts with later American episodic television that produce runs of 24 shows per season or less, allowing more breaks in filming and requiring fewer promotional appearances for the principal actors. In April 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 its "Tutti" line of dolls and another in its 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, two clothing lines, coloring books, and a 1971 cookbook with her picture on the cover.

Jones appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (three cameos) on March 11, 1968, was featured twice on The Mike Douglas Show (March 6, 1969 and December 22, 1969), and then featured on The Dick Cavett Show on February 25, 1971, along with actor/singer Sammy Davis Jr. and pianist Garrick Ohlsson. The Cavett appearance was her final appearance on television.

Family Affair was cancelled abruptly by CBS' "rural purge" campaign 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 Mrs. Beasley doll. She wanted to act in films, but Jones could not find the kind of work she wanted: she auditioned for the part of Regan MacNeil in the film The Exorcist (released in 1973), 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. Linda Blair was cast instead.

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.

In 1975, Jones was invited to audition for the role of Iris "Easy" Steensma in Taxi Driver but turned it down. Jodie Foster would go on to win the role and, resultingly, cinematic fame.

Teen years[edit]

Jones believed she had been typecast. She enrolled in Los Angeles' Westchester High School and returned to a life outside the entertainment industry.[5]

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. Jones was reported by her mother to the police as a runaway, was arrested and sent to juvenile hall, where she spent many months in state custody, after which she was allowed to live with her mother.

However, Jones soon began shoplifting and taking drugs. In 1975, she dropped out of high school altogether and briefly worked at a Winchell's Donuts shop in Playa Del Rey. She reportedly felt embarrassed whenever customers recognized who she was.

On her 18th birthday, in March 1976, Jones gained control of her saved earnings from her work in Family Affair, about $180,000 (equal to $792,526 today) as well as an undetermined amount of U.S. Savings Bonds, both of which had been held for her in a trust fund. Jones and her brother Paul then rented an apartment together, not far from their mother.


Shortly before noon on August 28, 1976, after partying in the beach town of Oceanside, California, with her new boyfriend Allan "Butch" Koven and others, Jones was found dead in a bedroom of a house belonging to the father of a 14-year-old friend named Helen Hennessy.[4]:28 The coroner's report listed her death as a drug overdose, later ruled accidental;[6] cocaine, PCP, Quaalude, and Seconal were found in her body during an autopsy toxicology examination. The police report also indicated a small vial of blue liquid next to Jones at the scene, which was never identified. The coroner who examined Jones reported she died from one of the most severe drug overdoses he had ever seen. Jones was 18 years old.[4]:28

Jones had a small, private service. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.[6] She left $63,000 in cash and more than $100,000 in savings bonds when she died.

Six days after Jones' death, Dr. Don Carlos Moshos was arrested and charged with illegally prescribing Seconal to Jones,[7] among other drugs-for-profit charges from a concurrent undercover criminal investigation. An envelope with Moshos' business address was present at Jones' scene of death, specifying a drug found in Anissa's toxicology report (Seconal), its dosage (1.5 gr), quantity (50), and the recipient's last name (Jones). Moshos was charged with 11 offenses, including second-degree murder;[8] while awaiting trial, Moshos died on December 27, 1976, four months after Jones.[9] Although the murder charges were dropped before his death, Moshos' estate was sued by Jones' surviving family for $400,000; in July 1979, the verdict found him 30% liable and Jones 70% responsible for her death, and the resulting judgment was reduced to $79,500.

Anissa's father, John Paul Jones, died of heart disease, March 7, 1974, age 44. On March 15, 1984, Jones' brother Paul died of a drug overdose. He was 24 years old.[4]:29 Jones' mother Mary Paula Jones died in Michigan on January 14, 2012.


Year Title Role Notes
1966–71 Family Affair Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis Main role; 138 episodes
1967 The Hollywood Palace Herself Co-host; S5, EP15 (aired December 26, 1967)
1968 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Herself S1, EP8; 3 cameos (aired March 11, 1968)
1969 The Mike Douglas Show Herself Guest (aired March 6, 1969)
1969 The Trouble with Girls Carol Bix An Elvis Presley motion picture
1969 The Mike Douglas Show Herself Co-host; "Kids' Week" (aired December 22, 1969)
1970 To Rome With Love Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis Episode: "Roman Affair"
1971 The Dick Cavett Show Herself Guest (aired February 25, 1971)


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ John Paul Jones, Sr.'s LA County death certificate
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b c d Brioux, Bill (2007). Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-99247-0.
  5. ^ NNDB
  6. ^ a b 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.
  7. ^ "Doctor Charged in Actress's Death". The New York Times. 1976-10-14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
  8. ^ Beck, Marilyn (September 24, 1976). "Overdose Investigated". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  9. ^ The San Bernardino County Sun

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