1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Blair River
Luci Scott  /  AP
Blair 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 2011-03-04T05:16:36

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.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Mall adds 'fast lane' after girl, 10, complains about slow shoppers

      Thanks to the suggestion of a 10-year-old girl who is tired of being stuck behind slow walkers, a British mall has added a...

    2. 'Spider-Man' Andrew Garfield gets tangled in web of words during Q&A with Emma Stone
    3. Savannah's honeymoon dispatch: Letting it all hang out on the best vacation of my life
    4. Go Hoda! She’s one of People’s Most Beautiful
    5. Lupita Nyong'o is People magazine's Most Beautiful person

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Video: 'Heart Attack Grill' spokesman dies

  1. Closed captioning of: 'Heart Attack Grill' spokesman dies

    >>> a giant of a man known as a spokesperson for unhealthy eating has died. 29-year-old blair river weighed 572 pounds and stood 6'8" tall. he earned $100 an hour promoting the heart attack grill. an arizona restaurant specializing in high calorie meals. river apparently contradicted -- rather contracted pneumonia after coming down with the flu.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Lupita Nyong’o is People magazine’s Most Beautiful person

    The Oscar winner with the perfect smile and the style to match beams from a cover that promises "her inspiring story.

    4/23/2014 11:54:41 AM +00:00 2014-04-23T11:54:41
  2. video Actress tells Savannah: Oscar win has opened doors

    video After a tremendous year for the actress, including winning an Oscar for her breakout role in “12 years a Slave,” and now being selected as People magazine’s Most Beautiful person, Lupita Nyong’o reflects on her rising fame in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.

    4/23/2014 12:35:32 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T12:35:32
  3. slideshow Her flawless looks: See Lupita’s colorful wardrobe

    slideshow Bright yellow, sky blue, rich red, shimmering gold — there's not a color that the fashionably adventurous Oscar-winning actress hasn't conquered.

    4/23/2014 1:40:41 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T13:40:41
  4. Reuters; AP
  1. Meadowhall, Yorkshire

    Mall adds 'fast lane' after girl, 10, complains about slow shoppers

    4/23/2014 2:48:06 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T14:48:06
  1. Annie Leibovitz

    Top fashion moms design collection to fight infant AIDS

    4/23/2014 2:01:51 PM +00:00 2014-04-23T14:01:51