She will always be known as Buffy, the pigtailed blond girl who was eight years old for five seasons on the 1960’s hit CBS television show, Family Affair. The show starred Brian Keith as Uncle Bill, a wealthy New York City bachelor who adopts his brother’s three children after he and their mother die (how they died is forever a mystery). Distinguished British actor Sebastian Cabot played Uncle Bill’s “gentleman‘s gentleman,” Mr. French. The show revolved around the resulting hilarity as the three children, teenage Sissy and twins Jody and Buffy tried to adapt to a new lifestyle with two men that they barely knew.
Family Affair was a bone fide hit, placing fourteenth in the ratings in 1966-`967, its first year on the air. In the 1967-1968 season it tied with The Dean Martin Show at number four. The next year Family Affair tied for fifth place with the long-running westerns Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Season five came in at number five, but by the 1970-1971 season it failed to rate at all and the show was dropped by CBS.
The show was produced by Don Fedderson, who was famous around Hollywood for his torturous production schedules, usually working his non-star actors six days a week, all year long. Fedderson, who also produced another hit show for CBS, My Three Sons, offered Brian Keith as well as My Three Sons star Fred McMurray an easier production schedule than he laid on his co-stars. All the scenes with Keith or McMurray were filmed in two thirty-day blocks, so the two stars could be available for film work. This schedule meant that everyone else on the program had to film their scenes out of sync with the actual show that they were working on. Any frame that Keith wasn’t in was filmed later.
In her role as Buffy, Anissa was a sickeningly sweet little girl who constantly carried, and talked to, an large, ugly, eyeglass-wearing doll called Mrs. Beasley that resembled an old-fashioned schoolmarm. The doll was mass-produced and sold millions. So stiff was Fedderson’s style that Buffy never aged in the five years that the program was broadcast. Nor did her hairstyle or clothing change—blond pig-tails that stuck out of the side of her head and out-of-fashion Little Bo-Peep dresses.
As Jones matured into a teenager, Fedderson had his wardrobe people cover her breasts with bindings to make her appear eight years old. To add insult to injury, Jones’ mother Mary, an aggressive stage mother, and Fedderson kept Alissa busy with public
appearances to sell the various merchandise with her and Mrs. Beasley’s images on them, long after Anissa hit puberty. She was forced to carry around Mrs. Beasley and act like an eight-year old when she was thirteen.
When CBS cancelled Family Affair in 1971, Jones was happy that it was over. She rejected most acting roles that came her way and tried to be a normal teenager. Anissa and her younger brother Paul, who were always inseparable, were pawns in their parents divorce until their father John was finally awarded full custody in 1973, only to die shortly afterwards from a heart condition. The two teenagers were forced to moved in with their mother in Playa del Ray.
A rebellious teen, tired of working a grueling schedule under hot lights, Jones wanted to go to a regular school and hang out with people her own age. Mary got Anissa tossed in to Juvenile Detention for staying away from home for days at a time and failing school grades.
Anissa got a job at a Winchell’s Donut Shop in Playa del Ray, something that must have deeply embarrassed her mother. Hanging out with the stoner beach crowd, Anissa started to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, waiting patiently for her eighteenth birthday when
she would get $70,000 from a trust fund and $107,800 worth of U.S. Savings Bonds. She and Paul didn’t waste a minute leaving their mother’s home and rented a nearby apartment.
Always putting her brother first, Anissa bought him a brand-new and fully accessorized Camaro while buying a brand new Ford Pinto for herself. Together the siblings took the drug usage up a notch when they started snorting cocaine and Angel Dust and eating an assortment of downers. Alcohol and weed were always around, and their apartment quickly became known as a 24-hour party house.
On August 28, 1976, just over five months after receiving her trust fund money, Anissa Jones was found dead in a friend’s house in Oceanside. Clad in only boxer shorts, Jones had overdosed on Quaaludes, Secobarbital, cocaine, and Angel Dust. When her friends back in Playa del Ray found out that she had died, they broke into her apartment and stole everything of value.
It was rumored that her stomach was a mass of coagulated medication. Whatever the truth, San Diego Coroner Robert Creason put it bluntly, “Mary Anissa Jones’ death was one of the most severe cases of drug overdose ever seen in San Diego County.”
Keeping in family tradition, Paul Jones died of an overdose in 1984. The apple cheeked little girl who never aged in 138 episodes of Family Affair would forever be eight years old.