Heartbreak and a Sweater
The old “sweater in the dryer” story is the reason Toni Natalie broke up with Keith Raniere.
Or so she says in her book.
Unhappily, for Toni’s quest to be believed, one of Toni’s friends says she heard the same sweater story about another boyfriend she broke up with before she met Raniere.
In her book, The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of Nxivm, Toni assures us the sweater story happened with Keith.
But why did Toni Natalie really break up with Raniere?
Let’s examine the evidence Toni presents:
She writes, “The situation [with Raniere] was not safe— not for me, and certainly not for Michael [her adopted son]. Above all, I was going to protect my son. I could not risk anything bad happening to him. It broke my heart, but I sent him back to Rochester, to stay with Rusty… where the escalating situation with Keith was less likely to harm him. It was supposed to be temporary. I figured he’d be back in a month or two, at worst.
“But Michael never moved back. He stayed with Rusty until he graduated from high school.
“That I allowed myself to be separated from my child, far and away the most important person in my life, shows just how afraid I was of Keith Raniere.”
Yes, Toni gave up her son, she says, to protect him from Keith, because she was scared of him – but she did not leave Keith after that. She stayed. Most mothers would have given up the boyfriend first but not Toni Natalie.
Rusty, the boy’s father, says Toni did not give up her son – no, not at all. Instead, their son asked to live with his father, a kind and gentle man who cared more about his child than the lure of success and grandiose opportunity that Raniere promised Natalie.
One of the reasons Michael wanted to live with his father was because Toni kept the 6-8 year old boy on a super low-calorie diet.
Let’s get this straight. Toni did not give up her son because she was seeking to protect him from the monster Keith. She would have kept her son if she had the opportunity to do so. But Michael chose to live with his dad.
Toni’s calorie-restrictive diet was so severe that when the boy came back from summer vacations – which he spent with his father – the first thing Toni did was command the boy to step on a scale to weigh him.
She would frequently weigh the boy and the child was in dread of gaining weight – much like the DOS slaves were under Raniere.
Toni was constantly harassing the boy, leading him to the scale again and again, and scolding him if he gained a single pound. And there were punishments too if he was found to be violating his strict diet.
Even when he was away on summer vacation, Toni would call and harangue his father to ensure the boy did not gain weight and grouse that Rusty so indulgent that he would let the boy eat almost anything he liked, like growing boys are known to do.
Toni’s insanity was possibly, in part, inspired by Raniere who starved or semi-starved women all his life. He used to make oinking sounds whenever a woman who lived with him went to open the refrigerator.
It is not known if he “oinked” at young Michael, but I would suspect he did.
Maybe Keith wanted the boy to be of stunted growth [for who deprives a child of the food necessary to grow?]. And Toni had little to no maternal instincts. It was a bad combination.
Maybe Toni thought Keith was such a genius that he knew best what a child should eat – limited calories were healthier, perhaps Toni thought, than a robust diet for a child.
Regardless of the reason, if Keith devised it, Toni enforced it. Micheal was punished by Toni and Keith severely when he sneaked some cookies in the basement and ate them and was caught. [The cookies were meant for Keith – which made it a doubly serious offense.]
When I first heard this about Michael, I thought it was unique. I read about countries where food was scarce and children were malnourished but never heard of parents with sufficient money depriving their children of food.
In Toni’s defense, I’m told she thought the boy might become chubby and she wanted him slender, to grow up skinny; thin is desirable in Toni’s world. Fat is no good. No fat, no baby fat, no childhood fat. Lean, that’s the way she likes her men. Lean like her and Keith’s women.
Recently, I heard about another similarly abused boy.
Always plagued by a weight problem, the late Gary Crosby wrote in his book “Going On My Own Way,” that his famous father, Bing Crosby, weighed him once a week and that if he had gained weight, he was ordered to his father’s office for a whipping.
“I had a big, broad ass on me as a kid that used to annoy the hell out of my father,” Gary said, noting his father called him “Bucket Butt.”
“I’d get bent over and my pants taken down and beat till I bled,” he said in his book. He said he endured the pain by dreaming up ways to kill his father.
It is not known if Toni called her son derogatory names or beat the child for gaining weight, but one thing is certain: the boy left Toni and Keith and grew up to be strong and healthy, probably because his father knew that love is a better ingredient for health than any amount of rigid food deprivation.
Michael grew up strong, something he may not have achieved had he stayed with Toni and Keith and their ultra-low cal diet.
But getting back to Toni and her sacrificing her son to save him, Toni claims she was with Keith for eight years.
Michael, according to his father, was only with Toni and Keith for three years – only during the school season. He went home to his dad during summer vacations. After the end of third grade, the boy had enough of Toni and Keith – and asked his dad to let him live with him full time.
Toni quickly agreed.
Yet, Toni remained with Keith afterward. Obviously, if Keith was so terrible, she would have left him and, if she really wanted to be with her son, she would have found a way to do so.
But, it was worse, according to Toni, than anyone could imagine.
Toni wrote in her book, as justification for giving up her son, that Keith “would rape me as my son lay asleep in the next room. [Keith said]… that only through ‘energy exchange’ via intercourse could our relationship fully heal… I had to spend the night barricaded in a closet, rolled in a fetal ball on a bunch of pillows, to avoid his relentless assault.”
[The story sounds implausible to me – and for anyone who knows Toni, who is no shrinking violet. But for those who trust Toni’s word, that is what happened. She lay rolled up in a closet, in a fetal ball, to avoid Raniere’s rapes as her son lay sleeping in the next room.]
Later in the book, Toni writes about how she explained this to her son.
“I called Michael and told him to come over. He had never heard about the rapes. [Ed. Note: possibly because they never happened]. I didn’t want him to know. I wanted to shield him from all of it. By now, he was twenty-three. He came, he listened to my statement, and he wept. It would’ve been easier for him to believe I left him with Rusty because I was a bad mother. Now he knew the truth.”
The truth then, according to Toni, is that she gave up her son because Keith raped her.
Fair enough. Then why did she stay with Keith for another 5 years?
In reality, Toni only left Keith after she employed Scott Foley, who, she writes in her book, had a “nice ass.”
Toni started having an affair with this married man. She persuaded Scott, who is 10 years younger than her, to leave his wife and daughter, just as she left her son, and took off with Scott to Marathon, Florida in a recreational vehicle.
She blamed it all on Keith [the man she was so afraid of] and not Scott’s nice ass.
In another part of her book, Toni explains that it was not because she was raped – or that she had to give up her son – that she broke up with Keith.
It was because of a fight over a sweater. [Yes, that’s right, we finally got back to the sweater.]
Here’s how Toni tells it:
“We finally broke up because of a sweater. This was in early April of 1999. It may well have been on April Fool’s Day.
“When I left for work that morning, Keith was still in bed. He’d been up late the night before doing God knows what (or whom). Just before I left, I put a load of laundry in the washing machine. I called him at lunch.
“‘Can you please rotate the laundry?’ He reacted like I was speaking Greek. ‘Rotate the laundry?’
“‘Take the clothes out of the washing machine, put them in the dryer, throw in a few dryer sheets, turn the dryer on.’
“‘One thing: my sweater is in the wash, the black wool one. You can’t put that in the dryer or it will shrink.’
“He consented to help me, which was miracle enough, and I hung up the phone. When I got home, the clothes had made it into the dryer. All of them, including my black wool sweater, which was now too small for my dog to wear.
“‘Keith,’ I said, holding up the shrunken garment. ‘What the hell?’
“He looked up from his dog-eared copy of Dianetics. ‘What?’ [Editor’s Note: He just happened to be reading Dianetics – the book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.]
“‘Why did you put my sweater in the dryer?’
“‘You told me to.’
“‘No, Keith. No, I didn’t.’
“And the Little Prince lost his shit. He cornered me in the laundry room, screaming, spit flying from the corners of his mouth, like a rabid dog. ‘You are wrong, Toni. As usual. You don’t know what you said. I’m the Smartest Man in the World! I have a 240 IQ! Do you really think that you ‘re right, and I’m wrong? Tell me you’re wrong. Do it. Tell me you’re wrong.’
“‘Say you’re wrong.’
“For a minute I thought he was going to hit me, but he fought off that impulse. Instead, he stormed out of the house, like a hurricane veering back out to sea.
“He didn’t come back. Instead, he sent Kristin and Pam to the house, to entice me to apologize and beg for reinstatement. I refused. After about four days, I came home from work to find that most of his stuff had been removed from the house.
“Good, I thought. I told my mom. I told my brother. They were delighted. We’d broken up, like a normal couple.”
Among other things, this shows Toni wasn’t really terribly afraid of Keith. She told him “fuck you.”
She sent her son packing, she allowed herself to be raped and hide in a closet from Keith [a man who had a harem at his disposal to have sex with at any time], but it wasn’t until a sweater got shrunken that she stood her ground.
In reality, Toni Natalie left Keith because she started having sex with her married employee, Scott Foley, and when the business she operated with Keith went bust, she ran off with Scott with whatever money she could take from the business – to the Florida Keys.
By the way, Toni’s friend, the one who heard the sweater story before Toni met Keith said that when Toni told her the story of how she broke up with another boyfriend over him putting her sweater in the dryer, it was a red wool sweater, not a black wool sweater – like in the story with Keith.
This raises an interesting point: Did Toni break up with two different boyfriends because each of them didn’t listen to her about her wool sweaters, one ruining a red sweater and Keith, of course, ruining the black sweater?
Unlike rape or losing a child, ruining a perfectly good sweater is nothing to take lightly.
Or is it possible that Toni did break up with an earlier boyfriend over a sweater in a dryer – and she liked the story so much she put it in her book and gave credit to ruining the sweater to Keith?
Toni’s Book Continues to Nose Dive
Maybe because the book is too truthful for anyone to handle or maybe because it is jammed full of distortion, embellishments and outright lies, Toni’s book continues to do poorly. There are few to no buyers.
Amazon, as of press time, ranks her book on Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,308 in books. That means it is selling less than one book per day.
BookDepository.com ranks her book as the 1,843,235th best selling book. Which means, if this is accurate, there are almost 2 million books doing better than hers.
In a word, her book has tanked.
I would describe it in this fashion. She meant her book to take off like a Concorde Jet but, in reality, it was only a paper airplane.
Since she is “patient zero” or so she claims – the first one in Nxivm – even before it was called Nxivm [when she was in it, it was called “Executive Success Programs”, I think it only fair to say for Toni and her remarkable book: “Viva Executive Success!”