Anissa Jones (March 11, 1958 – August 28, 1976)
Mary Anissa Jones was born in West Lafayette, Indiana. Her maternal grandparents were Lebanese and her middle name means “little friend” in Arabic. After
the birth of her younger brother, the family moved to Playa Del Ray, California. At age 2, Anissa was enrolled in dance classes. At age 6, she went to an open audition for a breakfast cereal commercial. She won the part, made her first TV appearance, caught the acting bug and started her professional career!
At age 8 in 1966, she was cast as Ava Elizabeth “Buffy” Patterson-Davis on the CBS sitcom Family Affair. By 1969, the show was a hit and Jones was a popular child star. Also in 1969, she played Carol Bix alongside Elvis Presley in the film The Trouble with Girls. In 1971 Family Affair was abruptly cancelled. Jones, 13 at this point, was looking forward to branching out. She auditioned for the role of Regan in The Exorcist, but lost out as director William Friedkin thought her cutesy Family Affair role would eclipse Regan. Brian Keith (a Family Affair co-star) offered her a role on his new TV show, The Brian Keith Show, but Jones wasn’t interested in TV work.
Believing she was typecast, she enrolled in high school and tried to ignore the spotlight. Her parents divorced in 1965 and Jones and her brother were quickly involved in the bitter divorce and long ensuing custody battle. In 1973, custody was awarded to their father who soon after died of heart disease. Her brother went to live with their mother while Jones moved in with a friend. These tumultuous years revealed the writing on the wall. Jones began skipping school, was sent to juvenile hall, then to live with her mother. She began shoplifting and taking drugs. In 1975 at age 17, she dropped out of school and took a job at a donut shop in Playa Del Ray. Every time a customer recognized her, she was horribly embarrassed. On her 18th birthday Jones was able to gain control over her earnings and she and her brother rented an apartment together near their mother.
Unfortunately, Jones did not turn her life around. Just five months later, Jones was found dead after an all-night party in Oceanside, California. Jones died of a drug overdose, ruled accidental. Her autopsy showed cocaine, PCP, Quaaludes and Seconal in her system. A small vial of blue liquid was found next to her; the liquid was never identified. Six days after her death, her physician was charged with illegally prescribing Seconal. While awaiting trial, the physician died of cancer. Jones was only 18 years old at the time of her death. Even more tragic, just four days after what would have been Jones’ 26th birthday, on March 15, 1984, her brother Paul Jr. died of a drug overdose at age 24.
In 1978, Canadian punk rock group The Diodes recorded Child Star which detailed Jones’ death. In 1983, Hillary Carlip and her band (Angel and the Renns) recorded Buffy Come Back. It was a satiric tribute, set to the refrain of the Family Affair theme song.