Anissa Jones, who achieved great popularity as Buffy, was eager to get out of show business at 13 when Family Affair was cancelled. She was never able to live the normal life she yearned for, however.
Jones was born March 11, 1958, in West Lafayette, Ind. Her mother, Paula, received a master's degree from Purdue University and, before making the management of Anissa's career her full-time job, worked as a substitute teacher. Her father, John, earned a Ph.D. in engineering at Purdue.
At Family Affair's height, Jones' portrayal of Buffy was so popular with little girls that she graced dozens of coloring books, paper doll sets and other memorabilia. Mattel produced two versions of a Buffy and Mrs. Beasley doll. She inspired many girls to adopt her signature hairstyle, including young Susan Olsen, who asked her mother to style her hair that way for Olsen's Brady Bunch audition. (Olsen, of course, got the part and was stuck with the hairstyle for years.) Along with co-star Johnnie Whitaker, Jones even visited the White House and met President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Jones' only film credit is the 1969 Elvis movie The Trouble with Girls.
An incredibly busy shooting and publicity left Jones burned out by 1971, when Family Affair ended. She attended public school in Playa Del Rey, Calif., where she lived with her mother and younger brother Paul. Tensions between the children and their mother soon led Anissa and Paul to move in with their father. John and Paula Jones had divorced bitterly several years before, and the kids had had little contact with their father. Mr. Jones sued for and won custody of his children, and Anissa was apparently happy living with him. Sadly, he took ill and died shortly before Anissa's 16th birthday.
When her daughter was reluctant to return to her home, Mrs. Jones reportedly turned her in as a runaway, and Anissa spent time in juvenile hall. She did eventually move in with her mother but became increasingly rebellious. On her 18th birthday, she received a large sum of money from her Family Affair work and moved out with her brother into an apartment where her partying increased. She fell behind in high school and never graduated.
The public still takes a great deal of interest in Jones, in part because of her tragic death from an massive accidental drug overdose (PCP, cocaine, quaaludes, barbituates) in August 1976 in Oceanside, Calif. (Read Newsweek's brief obituary.)
In a live Internet chat, Johnnie Whitaker said this about her death:
I believe Anissa suffered from the diseases of alcoholism and drug addiction. Unfortunately, the places that alcoholics and drug addicts end up are jails, institutions or death. It was a very sad thing that the friends Anissa chose to pal around with didn't care enough about her to take her to a hospital five minutes away from the hotel room in which she passed. Instead, in their own addict/alcoholic minds, they decided to leave her in a very desperate situation. In her sedated state, she appeared to be dead, but was not. She could be alive today, I believe, had the friends been "true friends" and not "drug buddies" or users in the literal and figurative sense.
Anissa is a Lebanese name pronounced AH-NEES-A that means little friend.