I admit to some laughter when I read the news that John Alleman, unofficial spokesman and mascot for Las Vegas’ infamous Heart Attack Grill, dropped dead of a heart attack outside the restaurant. “Talk about truth in advertising,” I thought to myself. Then I felt like an asshole.
Finding humor in someone’s death is bad enough, but I could have easily been this guy. Frankly, I still could be.
The Heart Attack Grill is typical of the excess that is Las Vegas. Its high-calorie menu includes the 9,982-calorie, 3-pound Quadruple Bypass Burger. The restaurant’s waitresses dress as sexy nurses and “prescribe great-tasting high-calorie meals including the Double Bypass Burger, Flatliner Fries, Full Sugar Coke, Butterfat Shake, and no-filter cigarettes!” according to the website. Its slogan is “Taste worth dying for.”
Alleman, a 52-year-old security guard, was featured on the Heart Attack Grill clothing line and ate at the restaurant daily. He was known for devouring so many burgers chased down with cream-laden milkshakes with a dollop of butter on top that the restaurant nicknamed him “Patient John.”
The poor guy collapsed outside the eatery while waiting for the bus. It’s really not the way a person wants to be remembered, is it?
I’ve walked past the restaurant during trips to Vegas for security conferences, but I’ve never gone in. As someone with a history of binge eating and overall food addiction, that would be unwise. But then excess is everywhere you go in that town, which is why I hate the place.
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It would be easy to get on my soapbox and decry restaurants like this as an evil that preys on people like me, but I know that’s just not true. As I’ve said about McDonald’s, once my favorite binging hole, the problem isn’t the establishment. Healthy-minded people can eat there once in a while and balance it with a healthy lifestyle the rest of the time. The Heart Attack Grill is no different.
If someone can enjoy infrequent moments of total excess without letting those moments control and consume them, good for them. I envy them, because a disconnected wire in my brain prevents me from living that way.
It appears Alleman had the same problem. I’m glad it wasn’t me this time.