Chingchai Liampetchakul, better known as Chang, was a rebel with a cause, a truly unique character. He aimed to live the American Dream to its fullest extent and, according to Maycie and April, his daughters, he did just that.
His No. 1 favorite quote: Just do it, spoken with his unique accent.
He was born April 22, 1958, in Bangkok, Thailand, the youngest of nine siblings, but his official recorded birthdate was June 10, according to his mother, Mui Liang, a Chinese immigrant in Bangkok, relayed to the grandchildren. In order to avoid punishment for not recording the birth in a timely manner, she made up the birthdate closer to the day that she arrived to record it. At 16, Chang left Bangkok, following the rest of his siblings to the U.S. — his mother would also come to the U.S. — where they started picking up work close to where they literally landed and got off the plane, West L.A. and Santa Monica.
Chang, best known for his lust for life, worked all sorts of jobs before opening Tipps Thai: mechanic, seamster and truck driver, to name a few. Chang moved from L.A. to Port Hueneme and finally to Ventura where he got a job washing dishes at a Thai restaurant that would sooner than later become Tipps Thai. In 1982, Chang married Patcharee Katavetiskul.
“His older brother, White, invited us to a Christmas party in 1981 and met Chang,” said Patcharee. In March 1983, Chang, along with two of his sisters, Mui and Saitip, opened one of the most well-known Thai restaurants in downtown Ventura for the next 34 years. Tipps Thai closed in 2017.
“When we opened the restaurant, we had our reception on our first anniversary,” Patcharee said. “As crazy as he was, he was a good man and a good provider.”
What happened after the opening of Tipps Thai was a whirlwind of adventures. His daughters were born, April in 1987 and then Maycie in 1990. Chang and nine members of his large family, including his mother, wife, two daughters and two cousins, shared a two-bedroom house next to the Carl’s Jr. on Thompson Boulevard. By 1996, Tipps Thai was doing so well that the family moved to a house on Skyline Road above Arroyo Verde Park. The daughters called the time period from 1996-2008 the “Golden Years.”
Chang wasn’t just known for Tipps Thai, but also for riding horses like a cowboy above La Conchita (he also lost a friend in the landslide), windsurfing along the coast and snowboarding. The daughters laughed about how badly he scarred his knees due to his wild dance moves: “He was a party animal.” From Tipps Thai to Golden China, Chang was all about having fun the best way he knew how; he also loved a beer or two, maybe more. His lively spirit kept a certain pulse alive for a long time in Downtown. He even dressed like a parking meter for Halloween in 2010.
Perhaps his ability to have fun and impart joy to any activity is why so many couples held their weddings and various other important events at his restaurant
He cultivated many true and strong friendships with the community, including JD Drury, widely known for singing with Raging Arb and the Redheads and putting on the Surf Rodeo, Ross Emery of the Roadshow Revival and George Christie. One thing was clear: Chang was always ready to help when he could.
“He once ran down the street with a plunger to loan it to a neighbor,” Maycie said with a smile. He also donated time, food and money to different charities such as the Lions Club and Community Memorial Hospital.
The last year and a half of his life was surely the most trying, especially after years of coping with the recession that had hit his business rather hard. In February 2017, Chang suffered a stroke, landing him in the hospital, but the community rallied around him to help with care and financial support due to medical bills.
“When the community stepped up for him, when he had a stroke, that’s when we realized how many people cared,” Maycie said. “We understand how important he was.”
In early May 2017, Chang was arrested on an arson charge related to a fire above his business. Later that month, the family decided to close Tipps Thai. A year later, on April 24, Chang was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. He succumbed to the disease on Aug. 1 at 11 a.m. in his home. Chang, however, managed to meet the latest addition to the family, Elton, Maycie’s son, who was born on July 12.
While the loss of someone as busy, fun and engaged as Chang is palpable, there’s perhaps a silver lining to the cloud. If Chang is right about his religious preference, Buddhism, then his bodacious soulmay remain among us somehow. Chang will surely be remembered for the love he had for his family, his work, his place in the community of Ventura and for living life to the fullest.
Chang is survived by his siblings Hong Liampetchakul, White Liampetchakul, Yong Liampetchakul, Gina Thepuchkun, Wannapa Pridipun, Mui hand, John lampechkun; his children, April Mesa and Maycie Liampetchakul; his grandchildren Damian Mesa, Mina Moraza, Lorenzo “Cheeto” Moraza and Elton Moraza; his wife, Prayad “Jeanie” Noumngram, and his ex-wife, Patcharee Liampetchakul, mother of April and Maycie.
Funeral services will be held at Forever Hollywood, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, on Aug. 18, at 12:45 p.m.