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. At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays

      Sheinelle Jones may be the newest kid on the TODAY block, but she’s already inviting you over for the holidays. As part of...

    2. Here comes another royal baby!
    3. What a mess! Check out these adorable photos of kids caught red-handed
    4. Get the recipes for 6 cute and creative gingerbread cookies
    5. Watch father and adorable baby (sort of) duet on 'Deck the Halls'

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. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    At Home with TODAY: Sheinelle Jones is inviting you for the holidays

    12/19/2014 4:57:16 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T16:57:16
  1. AFP-Getty Images

    Here comes another royal baby!

    12/19/2014 7:30:30 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T19:30:30
  1. Obama: Sony made a mistake in canceling ‘Interview’ release

    President Barack Obama said Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment "made a mistake" by nixing the release of a comedic film after the company was hacked and received cyber threats.

    12/19/2014 7:35:43 PM +00:00 2014-12-19T19:35:43