Fort Worth native Timber Brown got his acrobatic start in trees

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
America’s Got Talent • 8 p.m. Tuesday • KXAS/ Channel 5

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When Timber Brown was a kid growing up in Fort Worth, he practically lived in trees.

It was his way of coping with a difficult family life.

No tree was too tall for Brown to climb. Somehow the world made more sense when he was suspended high above it — and he never felt safer than when he was swinging like a daredevil from branch to branch.

“Climbing trees was my escape,” Brown says. “Little did I know that I was preparing myself for a career way up there.”

Today, Brown is a self-trained acrobat and aerialist competing for fame and fortune on America’s Got Talent.

He will be one of the wide variety of acts showcased in Tuesday’s live episode (8 p.m. on NBC), to be telecast from historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

If Brown wins, outdistancing approximately 75,000 acts that auditioned and 60 finalists that advanced to New York, he’ll collect a cool $1 million.

But Brown, 28, who lives and works in Las Vegas, insists he’s not in it for just the prize money.

“My ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to win,” he says. “I think it’s possible, but highly unlikely. What I would really like is to get some attention for a charitable cause I’m trying to start, which can help kids who had lives like I had but who aren’t as fortunate as I am.”

Brown, you see, didn’t have the most stable family life growing up.

“I was the product of a broken home. Of course, that’s the case for a lot of people nowadays, unfortunately,” he says. “My dad was an abusive alcoholic and my mom was a drug addict. I often didn’t know if she was alive or dead or where she was. She would roll into town every couple of years and we’d have five minutes with her in the park and then she’d be gone.

“Not having a mom figure around, and having an abusive, alcoholic dad, you’re kind of on your own and you have to figure things out for yourself.

“Now don’t get me wrong. I love my family very much, and I really like the person I’ve become and I wouldn’t take back my early life for the world. I wouldn’t change my parents. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have the life I’ve had.

“But I think a lot of kids aren’t going to be so fortunate. So somebody needs to be there to tell them, ‘You know what? You’re going to be just fine. Just hang in there.’”

The swing of things

Hang in there. That’s an interesting turn of phrase coming from a gravity-defying acrobat.

Brown, a Boswell High School grad, was studying criminal justice at Tarrant County College so that he could enter the police academy when he discovered his calling.

Friends had videotaped him swinging from various apparatuses in the gym — “I basically had made the place into my own abstract jungle gym,” he says — and they sent it to an entertainment company that called offering a job in which he could show off his moves performing in a Las Vegas casino.

“I went to do the show for the summer, and I never came back,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for seven years now.”

Timber isn’t a nickname, by the way. It’s actually his given name — and a prescient one, given that he wound up spending so much of his life in trees.

“My dad knew this guy who named his kid Forest and he really liked that,” Brown explains. “But he didn’t want to copy, so he thought of Timber.”

Impressing the judges

Brown auditioned for America’s Got Talent in Los Angeles.

After advancing to the Vegas round, he wowed the judges and earned his ticket to New York by gracefully climbing a pole using only his hands, clinging horizontally to the pole from his ankles and flipping onto an adjacent pole — all in sync to the strains of Tim McGraw’s Cowboy in Me.

It’s worth noting, though, that Brown says he hasn’t scratched the surface of the amazing things he can do up in the air.

America’s Got Talent rules forbid him from revealing what Tuesday’s performance will be, but he can say this much:

“I think a lot of people are expecting me to do stuff with poles every time. But I don’t do just one thing. I do a whole bunch of stuff. If I continue on, I’m not done with poles. But my next one is going to be in the air. It’s a routine where, if I mess up and come down, I’m going to be seriously injured, or worse, because we’re talking 30 feet in the air.”

If Brown wins, he intends to put most of the money to work into the nonprofit he is planning to launch. And he’s happy to report that the message about this cause is already getting out.

“The producer of the show I’m in told the casino what I’m doing on America’s Got Talent and they said, ‘That’s awesome. Every live round he makes it past, we’ll give him $5,000 towards his charity,’ which means it’s already working,” Brown says.

“It also feels good when I hear from people who watched the show and are like, ‘Wow, what you did was amazing — and your story touched my heart.’”

But if he is lucky enough to win the big prize, he’d also like to spend a fraction of the winnings on himself. He’d like to build his dream house: a tree house, of course.

“That’s the kind of house I would love to live in,” he says. “That would be a dream come true.”

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