575-Pound Heart Attack Grill Spokesman Dead at 29. (And No, It Wasn't a Heart Attack)

Shameless? Yes, but then so is the Heart Attack Grill.

We've written about the Heart Attack Grill before. Even though it is a restaurant in Chandler, Ariz., and this is a food and restaurant blog in Seattle, Wash., the Heart Attack Grill has always been there for me when I needed a picture of a slutty sexy nurse serving cheeseburgers or some example of the seemingly insatiable appetite of Americans for eating foods bigger than their heads. When I needed some clever restaurant promotion against which to juxtapose the lameness of some other, the Heart Attack Grill was my go-to. And when the place threatened to sue John Howie Steak for trademark infringement because of a similarly named burger? Well, that was just gravy.

Lots and lots of fatty gravy.

But now I am using this space to mourn the passing of a giant. A literal giant. Because on Tuesday, Blair River, spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill and the genius behind the rule that any customer over 350 lbs. could eat for free, died at just 29.

And no, the man didn't go down due to a heart attack. The universe just doesn't usually hand out irony like that so cheaply.

Tragically, it was the flu, followed by pneumonia, that looks to have killed River. Weirdly, Jon Basso, owner of the Heart Attack Grill, spoke to ABC News about his friend's death and said that River was a "young creative genius, a promising man whose life got cut short because he carried extra weight. Had he been thin, he would have had a tenfold opportunity to survive the pneumonia."

And while such a line may seem unusual coming from a guy who runs a burger restaurant that deliberately serves food that's bad for everyone, it's not quite so shocking if you understand the weird angle from which Basso approached this business. He came up with the idea while researching a marketing thesis on fitness-training studios and people who cheat on their diets, and the front door of the place has a fake warning from the Surgeon General saying, "Go away, if you come in this place, it's going to kill you."

The Heart Attack Grill was always an example of food porn made real--something that River seemed to understand completely as the spokesman. And no matter how you felt about the place, its absurdist appeal, or its menu (full of Heart Attack Burgers, Flatliner Fries, packs of Lucky Strikes, and bottles of JOLT cola), today is a sad day in Burgerlandia, for sure.

So farewell, Blair River. The world will be a duller (and slightly less weighty) place without you.

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