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Mary Anissa Jones (March 11, 1958 – August 28, 1976) was an Americanmarker child actress most widely known for playing "Buffy" on the CBS sitcom Family Affair. She died of a drug overdose at the age of 18.

Early years

Jones was born in West Lafayette, Indianamarker. Jones' maternal grandparents were Lebanese. Her middle name means little friend in Arabic (rhyming with Lisa, rather than Melissa). Her parents were students at Purdue Universitymarker at the time of her birth and they soon moved to Playa Del Reymarker, Californiamarker. When she was two years old her mother enrolled Jones 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 Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis on the CBS sitcom Family Affair (1966). In the opening plotline her character was one of three siblings sent to live with her Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) and his butler Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) after the children's parents died in a car accident. By July 1969 the series was a hit and Jones became a popular child celebrity. That year she also had a small role 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 the first three seasons up to 30 episodes were broadcast, unlike later American television series with fewer than 25 episodes each year which allows more breaks in filming, along with fewer promotional appearances for the actors. In April 1969 Jones broke her leg on a playground 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. 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 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, child or adult, Jones couldn't find the kind of work she wanted. She auditioned unsuccessfully for the part of Regan MacNeil in the film The Exorcist. Meanwhile Brian Keith kept in touch with her through letters and offered Jones a young-adult role on The Brian Keith Show (1972-1974). Keith told her she would not need to audition for the part but Jones did not want to work in television.

Later teens

Jones believed she had been typecast. She enrolled in Westchester High School and went back to a life outside the entertainment industry.

Jones' parents had gone through a bitter divorce in 1965 and carried on a long feud over custody of Anissa and her younger brother Paul. In 1973 custody was awarded to their father but he died of heart disease shortly thereafter. When 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 sent to juvenile hall and spent 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 a Playa Del Rey doughnut shop.

On her 18th birthday in March 1976 Jones gained control of saved earnings from her work in Family Affair, about USD180,000 (roughly equal to $700,000 in 2009) 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.


Five and a half months later, in the early morning hours of August 28, 1976 after partying all night in the beach town of Oceanside, Californiamarker with her new boyfriend Allan (Butch) Koven and others, Jones was found dead in the bedroom of a house belonging to a 14-year-old friend named Helen Hennessey. 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. The coroner who examined Jones reported she had died from one of the most severe drug overdoses he had ever seen.

Jones had no funeral and was cremated. Her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Oceanmarker on September 1, 1976. She left $63,000 in cash and more than $100,000 in savings bonds when she died.

In 1984 her brother John Paul Jones Jr. also died of a drug overdose.

Cultural references

  • The Canadian pop-punk band The Diodes sang about Jones's turbulent life and overdose in the song "Child Star."
  • The spoken word poem Ode to Buffy, written and read by Marilynn Fowler, appears on the Voice Farm album Bigger, Cooler, Weirder.
  • The 1980s novelty song "Buffy Come Back" by Angel and The Reruns paid homage to Jones' Family Affair character.


  • "I can read...except for a very big word we sometimes have. Like the word philosopher. Do you know what a philosopher is? Well ... it's a man that thinks a lot, but doesn't do anything much about it." (TV Radio Mirror, March 1967)


Year Film Role Notes
1969 The Trouble with Girls Carol
Year Title Role Notes
1966-1971 Family Affair Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis 138 episodes
1970 To Rome With Love Ava Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson-Davis 1 episode


  1. Mrs. Beasley Has Left the Building: Anissa Jones, TV's Buffy, Dies of a Massive Overdose
  2. Personal Website with Family Pictures of Anissa
  3. Mrs. Beasley Talks!

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