Heart Attack Grill ‘spokesman’ dies after apparent heart attack

By JoNel Aleccia
NBC News

130213-John-AllemanA 54-year-old man who spent his days touting the greasy pleasures of the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas has died of an apparent heart attack, the restaurant’s owner said.

John Alleman was waiting for a bus outside the downtown grill last week when he collapsed, Jon Basso told NBC News. Alleman was hospitalized for several days, but died on Monday at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, a spokeswoman confirmed.

He’s the second unofficial spokesman for the unabashedly unhealthy restaurant to die in the past two years, according to press reports.

For the past 18 months, Alleman spent part of virtually every day at the grill, standing outside the doors, urging customers to come in and try the restaurant’s renowned “Coronary Dog” or a side of “Flatliner Fries.” The place is known for flagrantly fattening entrees, including the “Quadruple Bypass Burger” that weighs in at 9,983 calories.

“He did it for free,” Basso said. “He wouldn’t accept a dollar. He wouldn’t even accept a free burger.”

Alleman was relatively slender, but had a family history of heart disease, Basso said. He apparently lost both of his parents in their early 50s. He is survived by a brother, Paul Alleman, who also lives in Las Vegas, records show.

He is the second unofficial spokesman for one of Basso’s restaurants to die, according to press reports. Blair River, who stood 6-foot-8 and weighed 575 pounds was known as the “Gentle Giant” at the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Ariz., according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. He died in March 2011 from complications of flu-related pneumonia. He was 29.

 Alleman was known at the Las Vegas restaurant as “Patient John,” a nod to the grill’s hospital-themed gimmick where waitresses clad in skimpy costumes are called “nurses” and Basso refers to himself as the “head surgeon.” A caricature of Alleman is a staple on Heart Attack Grill menus, clothing and other merchandise. His real job was as a security guard at a local skyscraper, Basso said.

Basso seemed shaken by Alleman’s death in a telephone interview. He said he was with Alleman before he died and didn’t know quite what to do with a bag of Alleman’s clothing and personal belongings a hospital staffer told him to take home.

The grill will go on, said Basso, who was fielding media calls during a bartending shift on Tuesday. A former owner of a diet center, he said he grew tired of lying to people about weight-loss. The restaurant may have another spokesman, but, for now, Basso said he was missing his friend.

“Normally, I’m a lot more jovial,” he said. “I’m sorry.”