Las Vegas Sun

April 14, 2024

Heart Attack Grill spokesman dies from heart attack

Neonopolis Comes Alive

Steve Marcus

The sign for Heart Attack Grill is shown at Neonopolis in Downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012.

John Alleman, who suffered a heart attack last week, was the inspiration for the "Patient John" caricature that adorns the Heart Attack Grill’s menu and merchandise.

John Alleman, who suffered a heart attack last week, was the inspiration for the "Patient John" caricature that adorns the Heart Attack Grill’s menu and merchandise.

The second unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas has died from an apparent heart attack.

John Alleman suffered a heart attack last week as he waited at the bus stop in front of the restaurant, located inside the Neonopolis at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Alleman was taken off life support shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday, said restaurant owner Jon Basso. He was 52.

"He lived a very full life," said Basso, who seemed shaken when reached by phone Monday evening. "He will be missed."

The Pennsylvania native is survived by his only family, his brother Paul. Basso said Alleman had a genetic predisposition for cardiac problems, as both of his parents died of heart attacks in their 50s.

Basso recalled Alleman as a fun-loving man who loved the Heart Attack Grill. The medically themed restaurant is famous for its high-fat menu that includes a record-breaking 9,982-calorie, 3-pound Quadruple Bypass Burger. The grill's slogan is "Taste worth dying for."

Since the restaurant opened in October 2011, Basso said Alleman would stand outside its doors every day, coaxing customers in. Soon enough, Alleman became a fixture at the restaurant he loved, Basso said.

When he wasn't working security at an abandoned high-rise construction site on the Strip, Alleman could be found at the grill, talking with customers and eating a burger.

"He never missed a day, even on Christmas," Basso said. "People just loved him. He connected with people in a real way."

Although he was never on the restaurant's payroll, Alleman was everywhere else. His caricature, "Patient John," graces the front of Heart Attack Grill's menu, clothing line and merchandise.

From time to time, "Doctor Jon" Basso said he would offer a free meal and drink for Alleman's troubles. He always declined, Basso said.

"He never wanted a handout from anyone. He always insisted on paying," Basso said. "He lived, ate and breathed the Heart Attack Grill."

Alleman is the second unofficial spokesman to die in the restaurant's nearly two-year history in Las Vegas. In March 2011, Blair River — known as the Grill's "Gentle Giant" — died of flu-related pneumonia, Basso said at the time. The 575-pound spokesman was just 29.

Since then, the Heart Attack Grill had a spate of health-related incidents that seem to live up to the restaurant's fated name.

In February 2012, one man was stricken with what was believed to be a heart problem while eating a Triple Bypass Burger. Two months later, a woman suffered from a similar medical problem while reportedly eating a Double Bypass Burger. It was unclear at the time if her medical issue was related to the food.

Alleman, who weighed about 180 pounds, is proof that heart attacks could happen to anyone, Basso said.

"Heart attacks aren't a laughing matter," he said. "You don't have to be tremendously old or fat. You can be in your 30s and 40s and die of a heart attack."

Although Alleman's death was a "wake-up call," Basso said he won't stop serving Flatliner Fries and the world's "most calorific burger" as long as the public has an appetite for them. The restaurant will have a new spokesman or woman when they find someone with as much passion for burgers as Alleman, Basso said.

"The grill is where you can be yourself. We accept people as they are," Basso said. "(Alleman's death) isn't going to stop us from what we're doing. People have got to live their lives."

No burial or funeral arrangements have been made yet; however, the restaurant will close that day in Alleman's honor. Basso said he will match dollar-for-dollar any contributions made to offset medical and funeral expenses incurred by Alleman's brother.

Anyone interested in donating money can reach Basso at his email: [email protected]

More about the Heart Attack Grill

Downtown reporter Joe Schoenmann contributed to this story.

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