For a while, Anthony Johnson, 49, was on to a good thing.
According to the Connecticut Post, he would enter movie theaters showing films that catered heavily to female audiences – “Eat, Pray, Love;” ”The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” ”Twilight Eclipse” – and then, in the words of his two women accomplices, he would slither “like a snake” between and under the rows, rifling purses that the patrons had placed under their seats, looking for credit cards.
When he had enough stolen cards, Johnson and his accomplices retreated to a rented van in the parking lot where he would create an identity card using the victim’s name and the photo of one of his confederates, Jamie Lynn McGowan, and dispatch her to stores and casinos where she would load up on gift cards, phone cards, electronics, clothes, high-end sunglasses and, from the casinos, $2,000 cash advances.
McGowan, according to the Post, claimed that on a good weekend the three thieves would make off with $50,000 to $75,000.
Johnson, who is to be sentenced Jan. 14, faces a maximum of 74 years in prison; the two women, 36 to 42 months.
While this is an interesting crime story, it is also an instructive lesson in the sociology of the American cinema because there was a period, roughly from the ’70s and the years immediately bracketing that unfortunate decade, when this crime could not have happened.
The target audience was not women with credit cards but teenagers, preteens and young males still mentally rooted in that cohort. The grand old movie palaces were gone, replaced by cinderblock “multiplexes” whose decor, given the audiences, tended toward the indestructible.
The floor would have been covered with a rich, viscous mulch of Gummi Bears, Jujubes, chocolate covered raisins and partially chewed licorice sticks, lathered with fountain drinks.
Johnson would not have “slithered” but found himself bonded to the floor, helplessly struggling, as he grew ever weaker, like a creature in the La Brea tar pits.
One more lesson: Both of his female accomplices testified against him. While engaged in slithering, he should have paid more attention to the dialogue in the chick flicks.