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December 20, 2014

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Downtown Joe: Death knocking at door of Heart Attack Grill’s unofficial spokesman

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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.

A Las Vegas man who became the unofficial spokesman for downtown’s Heart Attack Grill by dint of the fact that he came to the restaurant daily will die shortly from a heart attack, the restaurant’s owner said late Friday.

“The customers just loved him,” said owner Jon Basso.

John Alleman, 52, is currently on life support in a local hospital. Basso said Alleman lived with his only family, his brother, Paul, near Fremont Street and Maryland Parkway.

Alleman would stand outside the restaurant daily coaxing people to try it, Basso said. At night Alleman worked security at one of the abandoned high-rise construction sites on the Strip.

“I told him I couldn’t hire him, but I can throw you a free drink and burger once in a while,” Basso said.

Alleman loved the food.

“I told him if you keep eating like this, it’s going to kill ya,” Basso said. “He’d say, ’I just love your place, Jon.’ He’s the only person I know who was probably at the restaurant more than I; he’d be here every darned day.”

The restaurant’s signature is its high-calorie menu that includes “Flatliner Fries” and a “Quadruple Bypass Burger,” which holds the Guinness World Record for the “most calorific burger,” weighing in at more than 3 pounds and containing 9,982 calories.

Heart Attack Grill opened in October 2011 inside Neonopolis, at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Since then, some say the restaurant appears to have lived up to its name. In February 2012, one man was stricken with what was believed to be a heart problem while eating a “Triple Bypass Burger”; in April 2012, a woman suffered from another 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 is on life-support after suffering a heart attack about five days ago. Basso said “machines are exhaling and inhaling for him,” and doctors don’t expect Alleman to live when the machine is shut down. His brother, Paul, “wants to hold off as long as he can,” Basso added, but has made the decision to remove his brother from life support on Monday.

Basso, audibly distraught over the phone, said he would make a dollar-for-dollar match for contributions to help Alleman’s brother offset medical expenses.

“It’s just sad when you see poor, poor people end up like this, with a hospital that just wants to pull the plug. I wonder if they’d be saying that to a rich family,” Basso said. “It made me think of (the Beatles song) "Eleanor Rigby" — the most wonderful guy, he helped me out in my business, then he has a heart attack and he’s going to die. There’s no chance for recovery.”

Alleman became so well-known, his image graces Heart Attack Grill’s menu; the store’s merchandise includes its entire line of clothing embossed with Alleman’s caricature and the words, “Patient John.”

Basso said no burial or funeral arrangements have been made and if anyone wanted to donate or contact him, they could reach him at his email, [email protected].

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

CORRECTION: This version corrects the spelling of John Alleman's name. | (February 11, 2013)

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  1. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes the blues get a hold of you.

  2. Death is always knocking at the door of every one of us ... a fact that many who want to engineer our health seem to overlook.

  3. I love the hatred people have against this place, yet don't blink an eye when it comes to buffets that can have a person consume as many, if not MORE calories at a single meal.

  4. I wouldn't eat there but more power to the folks that do. I've seen the menu and it sure looks tempting , but it does seem like a novelty thing, too many burger joints to compete with that are much more accessible than Fremont St. , maybe they should just move locations.