If you spent the previous decade snooping around the Internet for porn, you are probably familiar with Raven Riley. For a brief period, she was the sassy, funny queen of the X-rated webcams – and her fan base was so intense that some viewers wrote songs about her while others queried her for advice on their love lives. She was on the verge of crossing over from the fringe world of adult entertainment into the mainstream, but she abruptly withdrew from the limelight and left behind a trail of chaos.
This fascinating documentary by David Pilot traces Raven’s unlikely rise from teenage slacker in small town Ohio to clothing-free goddess. Unwilling to go to college and unhappy about the prospect of joining her mother in a job as a nursing home aide, she accepted an invitation from a friend to pose in some bikini shots for a local photographer. More gigs followed, and these involved fewer garments of clothing. In short time, Raven was packaged into the Internet’s naughty girl next door, with website that was rich with webcam shows, suggestive photos and saucy blog postings.
Raven was clever enough to keep her growing online fan base entertained and shrewd enough to demand a substantial cut of the revenues from her online exploits from her business partners Tom Leach and Jay Morris. She even brought in her boyfriend, a handsome Army vet, to co-star in a series of short comic porn videos – a wise move, since their romantic chemistry and goofy on-screen personalities helped give these videos an uncommon degree of charm that pleased her audience.
But Raven tripped up in several ways. She foolishly believed that the vastness of the Internet would prevent friends and families from discovering her online activities – of course, they found out, which isolated her from those who championed her during her formative years. And her effort to become an actress with the erotic horror film “Succubus” short-circuited when the film proved to be a financial failure – and, truth be told, she lacked the talent to anchor a feature-length narrative. Her marriage to her boyfriend seemed to bring some degree of security, but Raven’s surprise decision to jettison her mini-porn kingdom ended in divorce, litigation, and bitter feelings with those who helped bring her to XXX stardom.
Why Raven decided to call it quits so early is not clear – she opted not to participate in the final portion of this documentary, and the comments from her still-angry collaborators give the impression of dramatically out-of-character behavior. (The men in her life were driven to extremes – fundamentalist religion or self-destructive behavior – after she left, which says more about them than about her.) Perhaps she realized that her vogue was expiring – in several videos from her webcam shows, she comments with puzzlement over the shrinking audience levels. A photo of Raven posing with Paris Hilton offers a quiet lesson in the failure to differentiate between notoriety and popularity.
Director Pilot does a marvelous job in piecing together a crazy quilt of insightful interviews and smutty video clips into a stunning profile of a sexy yet elusive creature. This is one of the most intelligent and provocative films about the adult entertainment business.