A 29-year-old valley man who served as spokesman for the ultra unhealthy eatery Heart Attack Grill has died.
At 6'8", 572 lbs., River gained attention from around the globe after signing on to be the larger-than-life spokesman for Chandler's Heart Attack Grill last fall. There, servers are dressed like nurses and the owner wears a doctor's lab coat, but the menu is the opposite of health-conscious.
When we talked to Blair River back in November about his modeling contract, he told us he felt healthy and had no regrets about the way he lived his life.
Jon Basso, the restaurant's founder, teared up a bit Wednesday when we asked him about the 29-year-old's sudden death.
"We all have a very very brief time on this earth, and the measure of a man is how he leaves the world after he's been here, and I can tell you Blair River was my friend," says Basso.
But many criticize the eatery that offers meals in excess of 8,000 calories. They fry their fries in pig lard and they're not shy about it. A sign in front of the building reads, "Caution. This establishment is bad for your health."
The cause of River's death is unknown, though some have cited a battle with the flu leading to pneumonia in blog posts.
Basso says he expects the criticism, but the message beneath the outrageous menu is one of caution. Even some diners agree -- it's your choice to eat there or not to eat there.
"We are absolutely guilty for glorifying obesity, it's what we do, but if you stop and think about why we glorify obesity and come into the Heart Attack Grill diet center I think you'll get it," says Basso.
River was a genuine person who told us the Heart Attack Grill gig, at $100 an hour, was all in good fun. Basso wants him to be remembered as a gentle giant and not someone who represented poor eating habits.
River started as a state champion high school football player and wrestler from Payson, Ariz. He leaves behind a young daughter.