BALTIMORE, MD -- Michael Phelps and his representatives are mounting an all-out effort to control the damage caused by a photo that surfaced showing the swimmer smoking from a marijuana pipe at a University of South Carolina house party. Their campaign got off to a shaky start yesterday when one of Phelps' agents, Drew Johnson, held what many attendees described as one of the most bizarre press conferences in recent memory. After rushing through a brief prepared statement, a perspiring Johnson looked out over the assembled press corps, defensively shielding his eyes from the glare of the intense lights.
"Those lights, those lights," shouted Johnson, stabbing at them with an accusatory index finger, "who turned on those lights? Where are those lights coming from? They're too bright." Johnson tried stepping away from the podium. "Why are those lights following me? Get those damn lights off me!" One of Johnson's associates gingerly approached the podium and asked that the lights be turned down. Johnson regained his composure and reassumed his position behind the podium.
"Mr. Johnson, Harvey Millhouse with Advertising age," said a reporter, about to pose a question. "Marketing experts are predicting a massive fallout from those photos...have you had any conversations thus far with any of your...Mr. Johnson? Mr. Johnson?"
It had become apparent that Johnson was preoccupied with the glass of water placed before him, examining it with great intensity. "I don't recall asking for a glass of water. Who put this here?" Johnson swung around to face a technician and a member of the hotel's wait staff, demanding that it be taken away immediately. A visibly stricken Johnson then returned to the podium, glancing nervously across the room.
"Mr. Johnson, Larry Appel from the Associated Press... prior to this incident we understand that your agency was receiving as many as 50 sponsorship offers daily...how has this incident..."
"What are you looking at?" Johnson demanded of a young female reporter seated in the middle of the third row. "Why are you looking at me like that?? Stop looking at me like that!!! Why is this woman staring at me like that??? You're freaking me out!!! Someone please get her to stop!!!"
A stunned murmuring spread across the room, as reporters began to stir uneasily in the face of Johnson's escalating paranoia. Suddenly a distant siren sounded; a terrified momentarily Johnson froze, let out an ear-splitting peal of pure horror, and bolted from the room.
"Whatever Phelps was smoking," one wag was overheard to say, "must have been awfully good shit."
Once order was restored, another of Phelps' representatives took the podium and tried changing the subject. "I just want to begin by acknowledging that our client Mr. Phelps did indeed inhale. Though rumors that he inhaled a half ounce of North Carolina chronic in just three monstrous bong hits is categorically untrue. Though the fact that it's even a rumor attests to the esteem in which Michael is held by his peers. Any questions?"