By ASHLEY POWERS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
COLUMBIANA -- He is all dark hair and smiles, a little kid in dad's ill-fitting plaid jacket and yellow tie.
"Juggling is an aphrodisiac," he informs his audience to whistles and hollers. His eyebrows arch. "And tonight I guarantee each and every one of you will get some."
On stage, Scot Nery oozes his 22-year-oldness. It's his livelihood -- cracking jokes and exuding charisma and cynicism while tossing clubs and balls and knives over his head and through his legs. He rarely misses an opportunity for a little banter with the crowd. Or a chance to wiggle his backside at them.
But, hey, this is an act that's good enough for Brooks & amp; Dunn.
From Columbiana: Nery, a 1997 Columbiana High School graduate, has juggled his way into a menagerie of magicians and fire eaters performing in the country duo's nationwide Neon Circus and Wild West Show tour. Via a phone interview from Nashville, Tenn., and a videotape of a January performance in San Jose, Calif., Nery conveyed through self-deprecating humor his love for the stage and all the chaos that goes with it.
Typical banter from his show goes as such:
"This trick took me a year to learn," he says, holding a ball he intends to arc and catch in the nape of his neck. "A year when I could have been making friends."
Nery smirks. Just kidding.
He loves the challenge of what he does, blending audience interaction and timing and precision. He may joke between tricks, but his face is pure concentration when one of the three knives he's handling shoots behind his back.
"A lot of people think juggling's for kids," he says. "But kids don't have the life experience to interact with an object."
Disillusioned: Nery's fascination with juggling coincided with his disillusionment with magic at a tricks camp in Pennsylvania. Then 13, he already had plowed through his first magic box, befriended a part-time magician and juggled handkerchiefs. After witnessing professional juggling, he found he was doing everyone else's tricks.
So he started tossing every kind of club and ball, thinking he could become a professional clown. Ringling Brothers Clown College, which he auditioned for after graduating from high school, thought differently.
"It's written on my rejection letter that I was too good. I wrote it there," Nery quips.
After growing frustrated with entry-level, dead-end jobs, "I thought, 'Hey, I need to do something. I'm just wasting away.'"
On the road: The streets were beckoning -- New Orleans, Boston, Key West, Fla., San Jose. Times were tough. Nery stayed in youth hostels and sent checks to a credit union here to prove he was making money. His older sister, Jennifer, generally was supportive. His parents, David Nery and Vaughn Musser, were more skeptical.
"My dad thought I was a beggar for a while until I explained what I do," Nery recalls.
Attracting a crowd: Each day, he'd stake out an area, shouting for people to gather and watch. He'd wait until they circled around him; sometimes the throngs were in the hundreds. Then he'd jest and play and juggle for about 20 minutes, feeding off the audience's reactions and collecting money afterward.
Nery was innovative. One day he eyed the bucket he used to collect money, the next he found a way to balance it on his nose and toss it onto his head.
"My bucket routine is so dumb, but it's so funny," he says. "It's a painful version of hat tricks and plate tricks."
Nery relished his freedom. All his possessions fit in the trunk of his car, and he could take off whenever he wanted. Then a friend from Nashville -- a place where Nery had worked in a hotel and juggled on the side -- called him about a summer commitment after meeting Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn at an awards show.
"He said, 'Hey, come and do this,' and I said, 'no.'"
Life as a rodeo clown, as his red, white and blue shirt and cut-off shorts costume for Brooks & amp; Dunn suggests, is chaotic for the four hours a day he performs in the festival setting. Before each show, he and several other artists -- accompanied by a mechanical bull -- entertain meandering concert-goers. Later, they crowd the stage, tumbling and tossing before the main act.
The large concert crowds are intimidating, Nery said.
But Brooks and Dunn? Just regular guys.
"They try to hook me up with girls," Nery says.
Are they successful? "No."
"They work so hard," he says -- at putting together the tour, not finding him a girlfriend. "They have a hand in everything. ... I'm sure the Backstreet Boys just show up and go 'bye, bye' or whatever."
Opened doors: The duo's watched Nery perform. They liked him. He's proud. The tour has opened doors for him. Maybe Thailand, Singapore or even reality television as part of a troupe of street performers.
He refuses to name an ultimate goal. "A lot of people say, 'I have to get on David Letterman, the Tonight Show.' But once that happens, then what?"
Nery mulls the possibilities -- illustration, maybe Web design. A few seconds pass.
"I'm thinking about landscaping," he announces.
And it becomes even easier to envision the stage smirk creeping across his face.