David Tallichet, Jr., the founder of Specialty Restaurants Corporation who opened over 100 restaurants throughout the nation, including Proud Bird in Westchester and Shanghai Red’s in Marina del Rey, died Wednesday, October 31st. He was 84.
Born in Dallas to David Compton Tallichet, Sr. and Margaret Tallichet, he grew up during the Great Depression. After completing high school, he studied at the University of the South, the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University.
With America’s entry into the Second World War, Tallichet signed up for military service. Pursuing his love for aviation, he was accepted for flight school, where he successfully completed primary, basic, and advanced flight training before being assigned to training on the four-engine Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
After completing training with the Flying Fortress, Tallichet was assigned to a crew that flew a B-17 from the United States to Britain. Once in Britain, he and his crew became part of the 350th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, based at Thorpe Abbot. From this location, Tallichet and his crew flew 23 combat missions before the collapse of Germany and V-E Day in May 1945.
In 1948, Tallichet was offered a position with the Hilton Hotels Corporation which he accepted. In 1955, he took the position of general manager of the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach, owned by Conrad Hilton. This would lead to a future career move that saw Tallichet and two partners obtain a lease with the Port of Long Beach to open The Reef Restaurant in 1958.
The opening of the Reef Restaurant was a pivotal point for Tallichet’s Specialty Restaurants Corporation, which would go on to encompass over 100 restaurants across the nation. He is generally credited with being one of the industry’s true theme-restaurant pioneers, with such ventures as Pieces of Eight in Marina del Rey (and later, in the same location, Shanghai Red’s), Proud Bird in Westchester, Ports O’ Call, Castaway, 94th Aero Squadron, Crawdaddy’s and Baby Does Matchless Mine.
Tallichet never lost his love for aviation and history, and during the late 1960s he decided to begin collecting and restoring World War II aircraft to flying condition. He would later develop what is said to be the world’s largest collection of privately-owned flying World War II aircraft, friends said.
With Hollywood nearby, Tallichet was often called upon to provide historic aircraft for films. He was able to fly his B-17 across the Atlantic to Britain to take part in 1990’s Memphis Belle.
In July this year, Tallichet took his Flying Fortress to an airshow in Michigan, where he was honored as the last World War II combat pilot still flying one of these aircraft.
Tallichet is survived by his wife Carol Margaret Tallichet of Orange; daughter Catherine Ann of Jackson Hole, Wyoming; son William Robert (his wife Jasmin: grandchildren Ashley and Catherine) of San Pedro; son John David (his wife Karen: grandchildren Bryan and Lauren) of Newport Beach; and son James Lee of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.