With menu items like the "Quadruple Bypass Burger," and free meals for anyone weighing more than 350 pounds, Arizona's Heart Attack Grill has long infuriated health advocates. But the restaurant is being attacked anew now that its 575-pound spokesperson, Blair River, passed away last week at the age of 29. Though River reportedly died from pneumonia complications, not a heart attack, doctors note that River's obesity made him much more susceptible to illness. Is the Heart Attack Grill to blame for taking the unhealthy lifestyle joke too far, or is Rivers' death just an eat-at-your-own-risk cautionary tale? (Watch a local report about River's death.)
We can all learn from this: The Heart Attack Grill's giddy pro-gluttony concept was a relative "hoot," until now, says Osha Gray Davidson at Forbes. In light of River's death, dining there would likely be "an overwhelmingly sad experience." If anything, River's story just shows "that eating as if there were no tomorrow can become self-fulfilling prophesy."
"A Cautionary tale: 575-pound spokesman for 'Heart Attack Grill' dies at 29"
Shame on you, Heart Attack Grill: "It's horrible and tragic" for someone so young to die like this — there's nothing funny about being so unhealthy, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. The restaurant hired River "because he was morbidly obese, not despite it." In their "crass commercials," they used him for laughs, instead of finding him the help he needed.
"Heart Attack Grill model Blair River dead — Who's laughing now?
Wait, the grill didn't encourage his obesity: "Even if he was skinny we would have given him the job," says the restaurant's founder, Jon Basso, as quoted in the Arizona Republic. River was hired because of his personality and "creative genius," not because of his weight. Had he been slimmer or lost weight, it would have been fine. "We would have just put a fat suit on him." No one is more broken up about River's death than his co-workers.
"575-pound Heart Attack Grill spokesman dies"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Pope Francis' American problem
- 10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- 12 holiday gifts for the hardest-to-shop-for people on your list
Subscribe to the Week