DOWNTOWN — Marty Moltz, 68, typically spends his days listening to legal arguments on contract law, among other arcane legalese, but starting Friday, he will get off the bench and take a seat on the Boulder Dash, Cyclone, Thunderbolt, Bizarro and Yankee Cannonball.
Moltz, of Rogers Park, an associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, will spend the next eight days at four amusement parks in New England. It's part of a convention for two groups of which Moltz is a member: American Coaster Enthusiasts and National Amusement Park Historical Association.
Moltz has hopped on more than 1,000 coasters since he first whizzed around at the old Riverview Park's Greyhound at age 7. He said he continues to love the feeling of "being perpetually 12 years old" when standing in line at amusement parks he's visited throughout the United States, Canada, England and Wales.
"There will be 500 people waiting to ride, and 490 will be under the age of 25," Moltz, a graduate of Senn High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago, said from his Downtown judge's chambers this week. "To me, I feel like I'm one of them. Thank God I can still ride roller coasters, even though I'm almost 70. I'm very fortunate."
And he said he's lucky to be a member of the roller coaster clubs, which were both founded in 1978 and allow card-carrying members privileges like exclusive ride access before amusement parks open (Moltz has been on coasters at Ohio's famous Cedar Point at 6 a.m.) and well after they close (he once rode the Cyclone in Denver's Lakeside Park at 4 a.m.).
Many of Moltz's fellow riders in the coming days are like him: adults with an impeccable professional background and a kid-at-heart mentality for amusement parks.
Some of his companions include Dr. Martin Valt, a dentist, oral surgeon and barrister lawyer from England who has been on about 2,000 roller coasters; Dr. Lisa Scheinin, a deputy medical examiner with the Los Angeles County Coroner's office who has enjoyed coasters in the U.S., Japan, Australia, England and even North Korea; and Michael Horwood, a Canadian composer who created a symphony called "Amusement Park Suite."
"It's such a varied group of people," said ACE honorary lifetime member Allen Ambrosini, 64, an Edgewater native, West Ridge resident and high school theater teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park. "I think people like roller coasters so much because it's a safe, reckless thing to do. You can scream and holler, and you can't do that too many other places in society."
Ambrosini said he's boarded more than 750 roller coasters throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and various European countries. His favorite is the "late" Texas Cyclone at Houston's Astroworld, a wooden beast that was demolished in 2006.
ACE keeps a detailed census on the world's roller coaster population, and of the 2,655 operating coasters, only 206 are made from wood. The jurist's new No. 1 ride is Outlaw Run in Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. The recently built $10 million wooden coaster sports a 161-foot, 81-degree first drop ("like you're going underneath the ride," Moltz said), reaches 68 miles per hour and has riders upside down three times.
"To be a great roller coaster, you have to have a great first drop, neat pockets of air time — where you feel like you're going to throw up — and spectacular curves," Moltz said. "I guess that last part sounds like I'm describing a woman."
Moltz's "real" woman is his wife of 39 years, Ann, a Northeastern Illinois University graduate and teacher's aide at Jordan Elementary Community School. However, she doesn't share his passion for coasters: She almost never journeys with her husband on his coaster conquests, and has ridden on only one roller coaster — The Mine Train at Six Flags St. Louis — in her life.
"She hated it, and she wasn't happy about it," Moltz said. "But I think that's a good reason why our marriage has been successful because my wife gets rid of me for a good part of the summer."