Family Affair: the name evokes memories for many baby boomers … the twinkly theme music, Mr. French, kindly Uncle Bill, charming big sister Cissy, and of course loveable twins Buffy and Jody. What happened to Buffy and Jody after “Family Affair” ended its TV run?
“Family Affair” ran on TV from 1966 until 1971. The show depicted the life of Bill Davis (aka “Uncle Bill”), an apparently quite well-compensated engineer who lived in a swanky New York apartment, complete with a genial butler named Mr. French.
However, Uncle Bill’s life changed drastically when an accident killed his brother, leaving his children orphans. Uncle Bill takes in Cissy and twins Buffy and Jody.
What About Buffy?
Buffy was played by Mary Anissa Jones (Anissa means “little friend” in Arabic and rhymes with “Lisa”). She was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, where her parents were students at Purdue University at the time of her birth.
The family moved to California when Anissa was two, and at six she landed her first acting role, in a cereal commercial.
At eight, Anissa was cast as Buffy in the CBS TV show “Family Affair.” The show kept Jones busy; she often was either filming or promoting the show seven days a week. She broke her leg when she was 11, and this was written into “Family Affair”’s story line.
Buffy’s famous cohort on the show was her doll, Mrs. Beasley. As she got older, Jones was anxious to be rid of Mrs. Beasley and her “Family Affair” persona. When she was 13, “Family Affair” ended and Anissa hoped to continue her acting career in films.
Where is Buffy Now?
Life for Anissa Jones did not have a happy ending. When Anissa was seven, her parents went through an acrimonious divorce, fighting over custody of Anissa and her younger brother, Paul. Custody was award to their father, but he died shortly thereafter and Anissa moved in with friends.
Jones’ behavior worsened and she began shoplifting, eventually dropping out of school. At age 18, she was found dead of a drug overdose in a friend’s house. Although the overdose was classed as “accidental,” the coroner classed it as one of the most severe he had ever seen.
“Buffy” had no funeral. She was cremated, with her ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. At her death, she had about $163,000 in cash and bonds from her acting career. I remember hearing about her death, and it made quite an impression as I think she was the first person I heard of who had died from using drugs.
What About Jody?
Johnny Whitaker, who played Jody, has fared somewhat better than Buffy. He was born December 13, 1959, the fifth of eight children. “Family Affair” producers loved the chemistry between Johnny and Anissa Jones (Buffy), and rewrote the script so that the twins would be six rather than ten, as originally planned.
Johnny went on to appear in episodes of “Bewitched,” “Marcus Welby MD,” “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and “Green Acres.”
Following Anissa Jones’ death, Whitaker said, “Although we played twins we were poles apart as human beings. It didn’t keep us from getting along well, but we were being raised in very different homes. I felt terrible about her death, but I wasn’t all that much surprised.”
Where is Jody Now?
After graduating from high school, Johnny spent two years in Portugal on a mission affiliated with his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (mormon). He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in communications.
He married theatrical agent Symbria White in 1984; they divorced in 1988. He went through a program to end a drug dependency at that time.
Johnny appeared in an Arby’s commercial in 2005, and later hosted a radio show with psychiatrist Dr. Rod Zodkevitch called “The Dr. Rod and Johnny Show.”
Did you watch Family Affair as a child?