Tense Relationships

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Family Affair had everything a successful sitcom in the 1960’s should have. It starred cute kids, took place in a unique location, and had a hilarious English butler. Now, Kathy Garver reveals secrets from the show and its cast and the curse associated with it.

Kathy Garver had some tension between her and a certain costar during her time filming Family Affair.

Only Two Left

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Family Affair only lasted for five seasons, in which Kathy starred in every episode. It’s been 50 years since the show ended and the cast wasn’t so lucky during these years. Over the years, every cast member has died except for Kathy Garver and Johnny Whitaker.

Family Friendly

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The show was about three orphaned children who moved to Manhattan to live with their Uncle Bill.

Changing Appearances

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The show’s producer, Don Fedderson, didn’t like that his child actors were growing up, which made their appearances change. He especially didn’t like when Anissa Jones started looking older. He made the costume team design her costumes so that it bound Anissa’s chest to make her look younger. This would later cause psychological problems for Jones.

Substance Abuse

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Like so many child stars, Anissa Jones turned to substance abuse to deal with the emotional strain of living in the spotlight. She dropped out of high school and died from a drug overdose at the age of 18.


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Kathy Garver said, “When the show ended she really wanted nothing more to do with show business… Child stars really are so vulnerable and need to be protected. She was whipped off every weekend to do PR and she was 8-years-old when she started the series. Five years later in the top ten, she’s 13 and she’s still carrying around a little doll with her hair in pigtails and short skirts.”

Too Late to Help

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Garver tried to reach out to help Jones. “I really reached out and went to her 18th birthday party and her mother had come up to me and said, ‘You know I wish you could spend some time with Anissa because she’s in the wrong crowd.’ And that crowd was taking [illegal substances]. Unfortunately, I had to go away for a project and didn’t get back for two months, and in that time she had died,” Garver explained.


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Jones wasn’t the only actor who dealt with hard times after the show ended. Johnny Whitaker also ended up using illegal substances. He also got a divorce in 1978 and ten years later was addicted to drugs. This would ruin his life entirely.


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Whittaker decided to get help for himself. Once he got sober he decided to help others struggling with addiction and opened up a non-profit. He was also a counselor at the Tarzana Treatment Centers in California.

Busy Schedule

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Actor Brian Keith, who played Uncle Bill, took on a lot of jobs in addition to Family Affair. He was so busy that the rest of the cast had to work around his schedule. He would film his scenes for the show in one-month blocks.

Different Styles

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According to Garver, “Brian would come in and say, ‘Oh what do we have today? Let me see the scene, uh-huh, uh-huh, let’s go!’ So he was very improvisational, motion of the moment.” This was very unlike Sebastian Cabot’s acting style which “was more from the classical style and he would take home his script, and he would dutifully look at every single word and have it to perfection.”

Betrayal of the Body

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Unfortunately, Brian Keith’s body couldn’t keep up with him. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and suffered from emphysema. Keith was an avid smoker and even endorsed Camel cigarettes in 1955. The diagnosis came as a shock since he had quit smoking a decade prior.


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Life was becoming too much to bear for Keith who killed himself by a gunshot wound on June 24, 1997. He wrote in his note that he killed himself because his daughter killed herself two months prior and he suffered from depression.

With His Daughter

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Many people were shocked and heartbroken at Brian’s death. “Now it’s time for me to join our little Daisy,” he wrote in his note. “She needs me. She didn’t want to be without me here, so she’ll have me again over there.”

Taking Control

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Kathy Garver revealed in an interview about Brian that “He was given two weeks to live. He was always in charge of his life, and he was going to be in charge of his own death.”

Lying on His Resume

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Sebastian Cabot never finished school. He dropped out at the age of 14 and ended up lying on his resume to get acting jobs in a repertory company.


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On Cabot’s first day at On the Spot he was fired when it was discovered that he had no acting experience. It was then that he sought out an agency for representation. With this move he landed the role as the butler on Family Affair.


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Cabot had some health struggles, which made him miss days of filming. The producers decided to replace him for a little while. Actor John Williams played the butler’s brother and starred in nine episodes that Cabot was absent for.

Early Death

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Unfortunately, Cabot met his death earlier than he should have. At the age of 59, Cabot died from a stroke in 1977.

Remembering Anissa

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After Anissa Jones’s death, many fans were disappointed. The band The Diodes wrote a song, “Child Star” that referenced Jones’s death. Even though she died at such a young age, she was able to touch many people’s lives.

Not a Suicide

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Famous actress Maureen O’Hara does not believe that Brian Keith committed suicide. She shared that he had a large gun collection that he liked to clean. She believes that the gun accidentally went off as he cleaned it.


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According to Kathy Garver, who played Brian Keith’s niece on the show claims that Keith said, “I’m a cultural Irishman, don’t you know, I’m a cultural Irishman.” Garver explains, “He went through many manifestations and changes of character, during the five years that we shot. At first, he was up and then his second year, he was going through a divorce, and then the third year, he met somebody else.”

Hard to Live With

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There weren’t many people out there who knew that Brian Keith could speak Russian fluently. He starred in movies like World War III and Meteor playing Russian characters. “I get tired of sitting home and doin’ nothing… And when that happens, I get hard to live with. Then this thing came along. I read it. I liked it,” Keith said about challenging his acting.

Last Words

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Brian Keith took his own life at the age of 75. Some people found his suicide hard to believe because he once said, “If I live to be a hundred and I hope I do, I won’t have time to read all the books I want to read or talk to the people I want to know. Not party talk. That’s a waste of time. Real talk.”

Shortly Canceled

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A revival of the show aired for one season in 2002-2003, however it only aired 14 out of the 16 episodes filmed. It had a hard time stacking up against shows like Friends, WWF Smackdown, and Survivor.

Opening Lines

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In some episodes there was an opening line, “Good evening, so nice of you to join us.” At the end there was a line, “It’s been very good of you to watch and we do hope to see you again next week on Family Affair.” It was none other than Sebastian Cabot who recorded these lines.

Small World

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Johnny Whitaker started acting at three years old. His first gig was in a car commercial with a cute dog. He then went to appear on General Hospital and then starred in The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming alongside Brian Keith.

Quitting Acting

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John Whitaker starred in the musical version of Tom Sawyer. He then went to Portugal for missionary work after graduating high school. He later became a talent agent at his sister’s company and managed Kimberly Drummond who starred in Diff’rent Strokes.


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Whitaker experienced some serious heartbreak when his wife, Symbria Wright, asked for a divorce to marry one of his best friends after just four years of marriage. This was the turning point that made him turn to alcohol and drugs. “That was what I called the precipitous event which caused me to lose faith in God and faith in myself and whatever else,” Whitaker said.

Turning to Drugs

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Whitaker’s life was spiraling out of control. “I started hanging out in bars and smoking and then going from [one illegal substance to another] and losing three cars, four apartments, five jobs, and a company that I’d started and ran into the ground,” he said.

Mr. Felix

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When the show aired in different countries, the characters were known by different names. Cissy was known as Cecile, Jody was known as Jacky, and Buffy was known as Fanfan. Mr. French was actually known as Mr. Felix. Uncle Bill was the only character whose name stayed the same.

Same Universe

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There were many shows that took place in the same universe. For example, Frasier and Cheers both take place in the same realm. The producer of Family Affair also produced the shows To Rome with Love and My Three Sons, which all took place in the same universe.

Almost Made a Comeback

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It was a surprise to fans when the show was suddenly canceled. There were talks that they would bring it back after a few seasons, but decided against it because The Brady Bunch was showing great success.


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The characters from the show were made into dolls for children to play with. Mrs. Beasley and Buffy were made into dolls and sold very well.

The Show’s Writers

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In order to make the show as realistic as possible, the writers hired an actual engineer to help write the script since Uncle Bill’s profession was in engineering.

No Glasses

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At first, Mrs. Beasley’s character did not wear glasses. It wasn’t until the second episode that you’ll see the character wearing her iconic specs.

Different Last Names

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If you weren’t an avid viewer of the show, you may not realize that the children’s last name was different from Bill’s because, well, they were not Bill’s children. Their original last name was Patterson and as the show went on they were referred to as Patterson Davis.

Stage Actors

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The actors from the show starred in more than just television shows. Kathy Garver is a stage actor who starred in plays such as Dinner at Five and Absolutely Dead. Whitaker starred in To Kill a Mockingbird in North Carolina recently.

The Exorcist

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Anissa Jones had a lot of potential for such a young actress. She was almost cast in The Exorcist as Regan, but the director felt that viewers wouldn’t be able to get passed seeing her as Buffy.

Tight Schedules

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The cast and crew had to work on a tight schedule when filming. It only took them two months to film an entire season!

Anissa’s Accident

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In real life, Anissa Jones broke her leg while playing, so the writers decided to add it into the show. They even made an entire episode just about her broken leg.

Various Directors

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Since they worked on such a tight shooting schedule, it did not guarantee that the same director would be available for every season. This resulted in each season having a different director.


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In 1994, years after Family Affair ended, Kathy Garver and Brian Keith worked together voicing characters for Spider-Man.


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When Kathy Garver was first cast, the crew did not know that she was 20 years old. She was supposed to be a teenager.

Shocking Cancelation

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It really was a shock when the news broke that the show would be canceled. It was doing so well and the ratings were high. CBS went through a “rural purge” because it wanted shows that would attract more urban audiences.


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Kathy Garver said in an interview with Oprah in 2016, “The only people left from the original cast are Johnny Whittaker and me.” It’s a sad fact. Oprah had something up her sleeve though. She planned to reunite the actors together on her show. She brought out Whittaker and surprised Kathy.


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“Johnny Whitaker, Jody, had his issues. Yes, he was almost penniless after the show and then he was depressed and divorced after a year and a half,” Kathy said in an interview. He “[took illegal substances and drank] alcohol and his family said, ‘Look, you get off alcohol, or we’re going to divorce you as a family.’ So he did, and now he helps people [battle their addiction.]”


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For years Whittaker held a secret close to him that he wanted to get off his chest. He knew that he was going to reunite with Kathy, but wasn’t sure how she would react when he made his confession.


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One day, Whittaker surprised Kathy at her door. There was some tension between the two. Despite her uncomfortable expression, she let him in to catch up. Whittaker needed to tell her something he had been holding in for years.

The Apology

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Whittaker said to Garver, “I’m here because I know that there might have been some bad blood between us. I wanted to apologize if there was anything that I’ve done to cause you to have feelings.” Nobody knew for sure what he was talking about, but Kathy sure did.

Talking It Out

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“If you had, at any time in all of the gigs that I set you up for, called me and said, ‘Thank you,’ that would have been very nice,” Garver said. “Nothing was done to hurt you. If it has hurt you, then I’m truly apologetic. I’m truly sorry,” Whittaker apologized profusely to his hurt costar.

Accepting the Apology

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“I accept your apology,” Garver said after a long pause. Whittaker felt so much better for having apologized to his costar and friend of fifty years.

Friends Again

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Kathy and John were friends again after years of not talking. When the show ended, Garver wrote multiple books and still answers mail from fans of the show. She also had a child at the age of 45 and loves being a mother.

When asked about the curse of Family Affair, she simply says that they went through a lot of tragedies, but there was never a curse.