570-Pound Arizona Model Hired to Promote Heart Attack Grill

PHOTO 570-Pound Arizona Model Hired to Promote Heart Attack Grill
Blair River Featured in New Restaurant Ad Which Jokes In Some Cases Mild Death May Occur

Blair River's a big boy. There's just no getting around it.

So he's putting his girth to use as the newly appointed spokesmodel for an Arizona restaurant that proudly proclaims "a taste worth dying for" as its motto.

River, who's 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 570 pounds, has appeared in online video advertisements for $100 an hour promoting the decidedly unhealthy fare at the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, where customers who weigh more than 350 pounds eat for free and the fries are deep-fried in lard.

VIDEO: Arizona restaurant serves fries deep-fried in lard and quadruple bypass burger.
Obese Model Pitches 'Heart Attack Grill'

River, 29, said he was merely a fan of the restaurant when he saw its owner, Jon Basso, advertising for a spokesman -- a big spokesman.

"He was looking for people over 500 pounds to do a commercial," River said. "I said hey, 'I'll do it.'"

Basso, known to restaurant patrons as Dr. Jon, in keeping with the restaurant's hospital theme, is no stranger to using gimmicks and entertainment to promote his restaurant. The menu proudly boasts both a "Quadruple Bypass Burger" and its "Flatliner Fries."

For his "Butterfat Shake," Grasso said, "the fat content of the cream is so high that if we have a quarter percent more, it would churn to butter in the ice cream machine."

Is he doing it to get the goat of nutritionists who blanch at the mere name of his restaurant? Maybe.

"We're in the front lines of the battle against anorexia," joked Basso, who's 45 and "normal weighted."

But River insisted he has no problem being seen as the big guy behind the big food. He said he's healthy, even though doctors lecture him to lose weight "all the time."

"This is me. If it's not me, it's going to be another guy," he said. "It doesn't bother me. I don't feel exploited or anything like that."

But maybe he should.

"This is like restaurant porn," said Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Somebody who is 350 pounds and over and eating this way is just going to be digging their grave with a spoon."

Expert Recognizes Grill's Gimmick but Still Disapproves of Fat Content

Although Basso estimated that the "Butterfat Shake" is the highest caloric item on the menu, he has never done the computations. Some people have estimated that the "Quadruple Bypass Burger" logs in at 8,000 calories, which Basso neither confirms nor denies.

"At this point, the government does not have a gun to my head forcing me to do such computation," he said. "At some point, they probably will.

"The moment you begin to ask how many calories are in something, you've asked the wrong question, because you are killing the fun."

River, a financial advisor by day and single dad to a 5-year-old daughter, said he was a big kid right from the start, weighing 10 pounds 8 ounces at birth.

He has tried at times to take some of the weight off, even auditioning twice for "The Biggest Loser" and once for another weight-loss show by the same producers. He wasn't chosen during any of his attempts.

"Since 'Biggest Loser' didn't want me, why not go the other way," he said, saying his spokesmodel stint is simply "using my size and having fun at it."

River's act of trying out for the famous weight-loss reality show, where contestants have been known to drop hundreds of pounds, indicates he knows he's too big, nutritionist Ayoob said.

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