'Heart Attack Grill' spokesman dies at 29
575-pound man promoted burgers-and-fries restaurant with high-calorie menu
Luci Scott / AP
lair River, 29, of Mesa, Ariz., died Tuesday after gaining fame as the 575-pound spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Ariz. Friends say he contracted pneumonia after a bout with the flu.
TODAY staff and wire
updated 3/4/2011 12:16:36 AM ET
PHOENIX — A 575-pound man who gained a measure of fame as spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill — a Phoenix-area restaurant that unabashedly touts its unhealthy, high-calorie menu — has died.
Friends of 29-year-old Blair River say he died Tuesday, possibly from contracting pneumonia after a bout with the flu.
Story: Heart Attack Grill serves bypass burgers, flatliner fries
Restaurant founder Jon Basso told The Arizona Republic that River was more than the larger-than-life caricature he portrayed in promoting the restaurant in Chandler, which includes huge hamburgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in lard on its menu
Basso said River was a creative genius who had been planning to take part in the shooting of a promotional spot called, "Heart Attack Grill: The Musical."
Breaded bliss: 7 crazy sandwiches
"Cynical people might think this (River's death) is funny," Basso said. "But people who knew him are crying their eyes out. There is a lot of mourning going on around here. You couldn't have found a better person."
The 6-foot-8 River was an Arizona state high school heavyweight wrestling champion in 1999 and played football at Mesa Community College.