How Did Anissa Jones Die? The ‘Family Affair’ Actress Died At Just 18

How Did Anissa Jones Die? The 'Family Affair' Actress Died At Just 18

Anissa Jones, best known for her portrayal of Buffy Davis on the CBS sitcom “Family Affair,” met a tragic fate at a young age. She attracted audiences with her trademark blond ponytails and charming smile, but her personal life took a troubling turn.

When the show was suddenly cancelled in 1971, Jones, then 13, wanted to break free from her child star image. However, despite her efforts to transition into film roles, she found herself typecast and struggled to secure work outside of her familiar persona. Jones, disheartened by a lack of opportunities and facing personal challenges, turned to drugs and petty crime. She tragically passed away at 18 due to a drug overdose at a friend’s house in 1976.

It’s a sad story of a young actress “Anissa Jones” who struggled with fame and addiction.

Who was Anissa Jones?

Anissa Jones, whose real name was Mary Anissa Jones, was born on March 11, 1958, in Lafayette, Indiana. She became famous when she was very young. After her family moved to California and her parents split up, her mother started taking her to auditions for TV commercials because a neighbor suggested it.

After securing roles in several commercials, Jones caught the attention of a producer for the CBS sitcom “Family Affair,” earning the part of Buffy at just 8 years old. In the series, she portrayed one of three children sent to live with their affluent bachelor uncle following their parents’ passing. She starred alongside Johnny Whitaker, who played her twin brother Jody, Kathy Garver as her older sister Cissy, Brian Keith as their Uncle Bill, and Sebastian Cabot as Uncle Bill’s butler.

Jones, as described by her co-star Garver in The Family Affair Cookbook, was smart and had a knack for acting. She had a lot of talent and enjoyed befriending the guest stars who came on the show.

Anissa Jones photo
Anissa Jones on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971

Audiences adored Anissa Jones in her role as Buffy throughout the show’s five seasons. They particularly loved the doll she carried, Mrs. Beasley, which became a popular toy that fans could purchase. However, as time passed, Jones became tired of her childlike character and preferred to be addressed by her real name rather than her on-screen persona.

In 1971, CBS decided to end Family Affair. While this seemed like a good opportunity for Anissa Jones to try new ventures, the young actress faced difficulties in the years that followed.

What happened to Anissa Jones after ‘Family Affair’?

After the TV show Family Affair ended, Anissa Jones attempted to become a movie star. People couldn’t see her as anything other than the adorable character Buffy. She even auditioned for a scary film called The Exorcist, but the director couldn’t picture her as a possessed character. She declined other acting opportunities and decided to stop acting altogether.

Anissa then spent time with new friends, but many of them were into drugs. This led her into a troubled phase. Jones faced difficulties not only in her career but also in her family life. Her parents’ divorce led to a bitter custody battle, with her father ultimately gaining custody of Jones and her brother. However, after her father passed away, Jones moved in with a friend.

Geoffrey Mark, co-author of the Family Affair Cookbook, described Anissa’s struggles: she was caught stealing, couldn’t hold onto jobs, had irregular sleeping and eating habits, and experienced extreme mood swings.

Garver recalled that Jones’s mother had expressed concern about her daughter at her 18th birthday celebration. According to Garver, Jones’s mom had said, “Kathy, I wish you’d spend some more time with Anissa because I really think that she’s in with a bad group of people.” This indicated the mother’s worry about Jones’s social circle, as reported by Garver to Fox News.

That birthday marked a significant event for Anissa Jones because it was her last, and she received the money she earned from Family Affair. “She received a little less than $200,000, which she blew almost immediately,” Mark said. “In four or five months.” Unfortunately, Anissa Jones did not have much time left. In August of that year, she died from a drug overdose.

How did Anissa Jones Die?

On August 28, 1976, Anissa Jones went to a party in Oceanside, California with her boyfriend, Allan Kovan. But she never came back home. Jones took too many drugs at the party and died when she was only 18. Later on, her doctor, Don Carlos Moshos, faced serious legal charges. The New York Times reported that he was charged with 11 felony counts for illegally prescribing strong drugs.

“The coroner said it was one of the worst overdoses he’d ever seen,” Garver wrote. “It was such a tragedy that this amazing little girl, such a bright light, was extinguished at such a young age.”

Garver also shared with Fox News that she believed Jones’s death was due to an overdose, not a suicide.

Garver expressed her belief to Fox News that Jones wouldn’t have taken her own life. She said, “She was a darling little girl and a lovely teenager, and I don’t think she would have taken her own life. Given the circumstances and how many drugs she took, and she was little — that was just too much for her little body to handle.”

Sadly, Jones was not the only Family Affair cast member who died tragically. Sebastian Cabot died from a stroke in 1977, and Brian Keith committed suicide in 1997. However, Garver does not believe in the concept of a “Family Affair Curse.”

“I don’t think there’s any curse,” she explained. “But if one can put something in a single word or a single sentence, that I think explains the unexplainable to many people. No, of course, there’s not a curse, but for some people, coincidences or different lifestyles that happened to people. So, I don’t think it’s a curse.”

Anissa Jones is best remembered today for her iconic role, which catapulted her to fame. Clips of her performance as Buffy can be found on YouTube and other platforms. However, Jones’s life, including her tragic death, tells a deeper story.  It sheds light on the difficulties that child actors face, the struggles of being typecast, and the risks of achieving and then losing stardom.