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Hometown girl makes porn

by Brian Clarey

She makes herself comfortable in the booth of the sushi restaurant on Tate Street, her legs stretched across the bench, not quite long enough to send her feet dangling over the edge. She’s got great shoes, by the way’… a pair of gold-sequined D’Orsays with kitten heels and pearls, rubies and emeralds stitched into the pattern. She wiggles her toes inside them while she sits. They sparkle in the sparse light.

The shoes are incongruous with the rest of her garb: a pair of dark jeans fraying at the cuffs and a boy’s jersey-style T-shirt that conceals her notoriously silicone-free bosom. Her lined and fitted denim overcoat is folded on the bench across from her.

‘“I wore some sexy stuff underneath,’” she assures me. ‘“Red. If you want to take some pictures.’”

She’s pleased when the waiter places a rainbow roll in front of her and she swings her legs under the table, hunches over the food and wipes a strand of dark brown hair behind one ear. She loads her green tea with sugar ‘— real sugar, not the pink stuff ‘— and holds her chopsticks upside down while she eats.

‘“I didn’t know there was good sushi in North Carolina,’” she says.

She calls herself RayVeness these days and makes California her home, but this woman grew up just across the city limits in Jamestown before leaving at age 18 to become arguably the biggest adult film actress this area has ever produced.

She’s pretty in a way one wouldn’t instinctually attribute to an adult film star, with crystalline blue eyes set off nicely by her dark tresses and creamy skin. Her body is voluptuously trim, like a young mother with a strict Pilates regimen. And she’s reserved, thoughtful and wise like any 33-year-old career woman would be after a life of hard-won victories, some unfortunate setbacks and a maybe a few regrets.

She says to call her ‘“Ray.’”

She’s in town for a week or so to spend the holidays with her family in Jamestown and get a free lunch from a reporter. She plans to film a scene while she’s here as well, a ‘“gonzo’” shoot in an old friend’s Greensboro apartment. No big deal ‘— a few hours and a couple of cameras, one or two takes. The number of partners with whom she’ll be performing, and for that matter their genders, are still unknown to the actress’… but these are just minor details when you do this kind of thing for a living.

‘“Once you get over the camera and the one or two people in the room, you have sex and you’re done and you get a paycheck for it,’” she says. ‘“Sex is different when you do a scene. It’s totally a job.’”

Her career in adult films was not something she planned on.

‘“My intention when I graduated high school was not to be a porn star,’” she recalls. ‘“I’m not sure what it was’…. I didn’t want a regular job. I wanted to sing and dance and all those things.’”

She began high school at High Point Central and transferred to Ragsdale, where she graduated with the Class of ’90. ‘“I was the ugly duckling,’” she admits. And she believes her education failed her.

‘“I graduated high school at seventeen,’” she says, ‘“and I didn’t take algebra, no foreign language’….’” She sighs, perhaps tasting a glimmer of The Way Things Might Have Been. She allows herself to muse for only a moment.

‘“I got married right at seventeen,’” she says.

Her first husband, a man by the name of Red Bone, took her away from Jamestown just after her graduation and they settled in Orlando, Fla.

‘“[The move] was for him, so he could get started in the music business,’” she says. ‘“But really it was to take me away from my family.’”

Times were tight for the newlyweds in Florida. RayVeness says she answered 27 want ads, bringing her high school diploma with her to every one.

‘“Nobody would give me a job,’” she says, and she ended up pulling minimum wage in fast food joints to make ends meet while Red tried to get a foothold as a recording artist.

It was Red, she says, who got her started in porn. He and Sally Jessie Raphael.

‘“I wasn’t there,’” she says. ‘“My husband was home watching Sally Jessie on TV,’” an episode about homegrown pornography. He called the number listed at the end of the program without his wife’s knowledge.

‘“All I know was within a week they sent us a package,’” she says. The dispatch included a camera and some simple directions and the promise of between one and four dollars for each minute of footage they could provide.

‘“We just set up the camera and did everything we could think of,’” she says. ‘“We totally did it for the money.’”

All this happened shortly after her 18th birthday.

RayVeness and Red made seven films before returning to North Carolina in 1992.

At the time, she says on her website, ‘“I didn’t really consider myself a porn star.’” She started dancing in local clubs.

‘“There was a place called Mirage that I used to dance at,’” she says. ‘“I remember having my 21st birthday there. It’s probably my best memory [of North Carolina]. My friend Alan was the DJ. Bruce and Stevie J were the bartenders.’” Again she pauses. ‘“That’s when I stopped feeling like the ugly duckling.’”

She soon separated from Red and tried her hand as a featured dancer, traveling to Canada to perform. Two weeks into her tour, while in a skimpy cowgirl outfit, she was riding a customer on all fours around the stage like a horse when a drunk biker hurled an ashtray across the room. It caught her in the back of the head and she missed a few days of work while recovering in the hospital. Other fiascos ensued: broken contracts, stolen cash’… it just wasn’t worth it. The tour ended after five weeks.

She came back to Jamestown once again and looked for a new line of work.

‘“I really wanted to quit dancing and do something else,’” she says with another thoughtful pause. ‘“Just’… something else.’”

She went to the Jamestown Fire Department and asked for a job. They took her on (‘“I’m a female,’” she remembers thinking. ‘“He couldn’t tell me no.’”) and she completed some of her training but then she began getting calls for more lucrative work in adult films. And things were not exactly rosy at the JFD.

‘“A couple of the guys, I think, had seen a couple of my movies. We washed the trucks on Sundays and one of the guys I went to high school with said he’d seen me. But he said he’d seen me on television.’” Things, she says, were never the same.

Her cover blown and film offers coming from all corners, she reunited with Red after a year and a half separation and set out for California, to the San Fernando Valley, the epicenter of the US porn industry.

It was 1994. She was 22 years old.

In that year, the San Fernando Valley was just beginning to understand the reach of the virtual fantasy world and the sector experienced a boom, largely due to the emergence of the internet. Perhaps 9,000 people in the area work in the adult entertainment business, according to industry estimates, putting out approximately 80 percent of the porn in the country, about 4,000 films a year using more than a thousand performers, generating in excess of $9 billion annually.

For Ray it was like being in San Francisco during the gold rush, or maybe the Summer of Love, or maybe somewhere in between, and all she had to do was claim her stake. But there was a hindrance to her rise to the top ‘— Ray was still a married woman and Red, something of an Ike Turner figure, didn’t want her doing scenes with any man other than himself. Ray felt honor-bound to respect his wishes.

‘“I’ll tell you how it works,’” she says, perched in the booth in the Japanese restaurant. ‘“My first husband, we were married before. Our relationship came before the business. It was my duty as a wife to respect the relationship.

‘“If I had been in the business and then met someone, they have no right to change me. It’s what I do. You just have to accept it’… you have to be strong enough to accept it,’” she says.

The makers of adult films, however, generally have substantially less respect for the sanctity of marriage ‘— Red’s presence created something of a glass ceiling.

‘“I didn’t become some big star,’” she says. ‘“I didn’t get a contract. I didn’t get more parts. The only reason I survived is because of what my body looks like. If I were a so-so looking girl I would’ve never made it doing one guy.’”

She pauses in her monologue once again.

‘“Red did hold me back,’” she says. ‘“But from what?’”

She divorced Red in 1997, freeing her from her marital obligations and allowing her full access to the cast of leading men in the Valley. She remarried in 1997, this time to another actor in the business, and continued her career until 1999, when she took what she calls on her website bio as a ‘“much-needed vacation.’” Up to this point, at age 27, she had appeared in some 170 films.

During her time off, RayVeness earned a degree from a university and got another divorce. Full of ambition but alone and strapped for cash, she turned back to the business of fantasy and sex. A bit older and certainly wiser, she soon became known among the other actors, most of whom were in the springtime of their twenties, as the ‘“den mother of adult,’” offering counsel and advice, and taking a stand when the situation called for it.

It was Ray who took the teenaged Lara Roxx under her wing when she arrived in the Valley from Canada.

‘“She had a hard time getting work because she had blue hair,’” Ray remembers. ‘“She asked me to help her out.’”

Ray took her in, dyed her hair black and helped her get her first scene, one with veteran porn actor Darren James.

The movie, shot in April 2004 and eventually released under the title Split That Booty 2, will live in infamy in the insular world of adult films.

It seems Brazilian star Bianca Biaggi came to the set carrying HIV, and in an earlier scene had infected James. James subsequently went on to infect three other women during the shooting of the film, one of whom was 19-year-old Lara Roxx. She contracted the virus in her very first scene, one which involved a particularly risky sexual scenario.

When she heard the news, RayVeness picked Roxx up from her hotel and brought her to the clinic.

‘“I was there with her when they told her,’” she remembers. She’s fingering a cross of white gold she wears around her neck when she speaks. ‘“She was delirious’… suicidal’….’”

It would be a galvanizing incident in RayVeness’ life.

After the outbreak the industry instituted a voluntary moratorium on production to trace the possible paths of contamination. RayVeness herself was in the second generation of contact and was quarantined until June 2004.

She used the time wisely.

In April of that year, in the midst of the HIV scare, she confronted Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) in a town hall-style meeting with an agenda consisting of two items: raise the minimum age of the performers from 18 to 21 and regulate the flow of illegal workers in the adult entertainment industry ‘— the Europeans and Canadians and South Americans and Asians and other nationalities who, she says, take jobs from American workers and dilute the talent pool.

She’s a Republican at heart.

Also, she says, foreign performers can pose health risks, as they did in the case of Lara Roxx.

‘“People should be twenty-one [before appearing in adult films],’” she says today, arguing that three more years of life experience might make a difference in a young person’s decision to do this kind of work.

If they knew the truth, she hints, they might not get into the business at all.

At the table in the Japanese restaurant, some 2,500 miles from her new home and the career that’s taken her from coast to coast, RayVeness again touches the cross around her neck. It’s been a long road, strewn with obstacles and tough decisions, but it’s her road, the one she’s traveled resolutely for all of her 33 years.

‘“I don’t feel I’ve had a harder life than anyone else,’” she says. ‘“I mean’… everyone’s got their story.’”

Her story, according to her Internet Movie Database page (imdb.com), is that she was born June 19, 1972 in Jamestown, NC; at 5-foot-3 and 103 pounds she measures 34D (natural)-24-34.

And to date she’s appeared in more than 300 adult films.

She still makes movies several times a month, picking up gigs like the shoot here in Greensboro and taking calls from directors and studios, performing enough to pay the bills and finance another career, one that she hopes will take off soon. She’s vague about the details.

She’s been unusually candid during lunch, but she’s protective enough of her off-screen life to leave plenty of blank spaces ‘— the nature of her other career; her real name; the school where she studied; the identities of her current boyfriend and her family who still lives in Jamestown; the location of the shoot in Greensboro ‘— and we have no choice but to honor her silence on these matters. She explains herself ably.

‘“We give so much of ourselves,’” she says. ‘“We’re giving you everything. Isn’t that enough? Aren’t we giving you enough? You gotta have something left for yourself.’”

She’s pensive now, with the empty plates stacked on the table, and her fingers go back to the cross.

It’s perhaps an unusual accessory for a porn star, and Ray won’t take it off even while she’s working. The same goes for her ring, the one she wears on her right hand that says ‘“pray hard.’”

The incongruity escapes her.

‘“What God says is that one sin is no different from any other,’” she says. ‘“A lie is just as bad as adultery; a murder is just as bad as stealing.

‘“All sins are bad,’” she says. ‘“Why is my sin any different from lying to your mom?’”

She puts on the long denim coat and brushes her hair from beneath the collar. And before she leaves, RayVeness, the porn star from Jamestown, dispels another myth.

‘“There are thousands and thousands of people doing porn,’” she says. ‘“There are no more porn stars. There’s no such thing.’”

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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