Childhood & Early Life
Anissa was born on March 11, 1958, in West Lafayette, Indiana, US to an engineering graduate and a Purdue University faculty board member, John Paul Jones, and zoology student Mary Paula Jones (née Tweel). Her middle name Anissa in Arabic means ‘Little Friend’.
She was enrolled in dance classes by her mother when she was two years old.
Her family relocated to Playa Del Rey, California, after her brother John Paul Jones, Jr. was born. At Playa Del Rey, her father started working in aerospace engineering and she started attending Paseo del Rey Elementary School.
In 1964, Anissa, accompanied by her mother, went for an open audition for a breakfast cereal commercial. She clinched the commercial marking her first appearance on television. She later attended Orville Wright Junior High School.
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Television producers Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson were looking for cast members for their new television sitcom ‘Family Affair’. They were impressed by acting skills of the eight year old Anissa that got her the main role of Ava Elizabeth ‘Buffy’ Patterson-Davis in the series.
‘Family Affair’ ran on CBS for 5 seasons encompassing 138 episodes starting from September 12, 1966 to September 9, 1971.
Her character ‘Buffy’ was originally created as elder sister of the character of Jody played by Johnny Whitaker. Her role was later re-written as twin of Jody upon insistence of Brian Keith who played Uncle Bill in the series.
Shooting of ‘Family Affair’ or its promotions in public became a full-time job for the little girl, which often became taxing as many a times she had to work seven days a week round the year. However, such hard work paid off as Anissa became a household name garnering fame and popularity when the show became a hit by July 1969.
Meanwhile in April 1969, she suffered a playground accident resulting in a fracture on her right leg. Even that injury was written and included in the script of the series by the producers.
The rise in popularity of Anissa as Buffy, particularly among little girls led the toy manufacturing company ‘Mattel’ to come up with Buffy’s doll named Mrs. Beasley which she was often seen carrying during the series. According to Buffy, the doll talked to her and in line with that notion ‘Mattel’ marketed it as a talking doll.
While Mrs. Beasley doll became a best-seller in North America, ‘Mattel’ came up with two other dolls, the talking doll ‘Small Talk Buffy’ in which Anissa’s voice was used and the ‘Tutti’-sized Buffy, both patterned after Buffy.
Many other ‘Family Affair’ associated products were launched including colouring books, lunch boxes, paper dolls and a clothing line and Anissa participated in marketing campaigns of many of these. A cookbook came up in 1971 with Anissa gracing its cover.
She featured in a few other television productions while basking with the success of ‘Family Affair’. On December 26, 1967, she featured as co-host of the hour-long American television variety show ‘The Hollywood Palace’ in episode 15 of season 5.
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She featured as herself in the 8th episode of Season 1 of the American sketch comedy television program ‘Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In’ that aired on NBC on March 11, 1968.
The 1969 released Elvis Presley starrer comedy film ‘The Trouble with Girls’ saw her essaying the role of Carol Bix. The following year she featured as Buffy in the CBS aired American sitcom ‘To Rome With Love’ in its episode titled ‘Roman Affair’.
On February 25, 1971 she along with American singer-dancer-actor-comedian Sammy Davis Jr. and American classical pianist Garrick Ohlsson appeared on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ hosted by notable American TV personality, talk show host and comedian Dick Cavett.
After ‘Family Affair’ came to an abrupt end, Anissa wanted to venture into films, but she struggled to get roles of her choice.
She gave audition for the role of Regan MacNeil for the American supernatural horror film ‘The Exorcist’ that later released in 1973, but she was turned down as William Friedkin, the film’s director felt that her image as Buffy would still be fresh in audiences minds more so with the syndicated daytime reruns of ‘Family Affair’, and the movie goers will possibly think the possessed character in the film as Buffy.
She was offered a young-adult role by her ‘Family Affair’ co-star Brian Keith in his American sitcom ‘The Brian Keith Show’ (1972–1974), but she rejected the offer as she was not interested in television work anymore.
Life After Showbiz
Her career in the entertainment industry literally ended after ‘Family Affair’. She then began her studies at the Westchester High School in Los Angeles and started a new life sans glitz and glamour of showbiz.
Meanwhile, her personal life started getting disturbed with her parents going for an awful divorce in 1965. It also involved the stress over her and her brother’s custody. The custody of the children was finally awarded to their father in 1973.
Her father, however, succumbed to heart disease soon after getting custody of the children following which her brother moved over to their mother’s house. Anissa, on the other hand, went to live with a friend and started playing hooky.
The Police arrested her after she was reported as a runaway by her mother. She had to stay in youth detention center for months under custody of the state following which she was permitted to reside with her mother. With time she became a victim of drugs and started shoplifting.
She dropped out of high school and worked for a while at the Winchell's Donuts shop in Playa Del Rey. As she was a famous child star once, she would often get recognised by customers that only left her embarrassed.
After she turned 18 in March 1976, she became eligible to handle her own earnings from her acting endeavours and also some U.S. Savings Bonds, which were till such time held in a trust fund on her behalf. She then started living in a rented apartment with her brother Paul.
She died of a drug overdose on August 28, 1976, in one of her friends Helen Hennessy’s father’s house in Oceanside, California, US. She was reportedly partying the night before with her new boyfriend Allan ‘Butch’ Koven and others in the beach town. Following her cremation the ashes were dispersed over the Pacific Ocean.
After six days of her death, Dr. Don Carlos Moshos was arrested for illegally prescribing Seconal to Anissa. He was charged with 11 offenses that included second-degree murder. However, Moshos died on December 27, 1976 due to cancer before the verdict on the case came out that found him 30% liable of Anissa’s death.