TV Producer, Writer Rift Fournier Dies

Gary Stromberg/The Blackbird Group

Wheelchair-bound after being stricken with polio as a teenager, he still went on to work on such shows as "Highway to Heaven," "NYPD Blue," "Kojak" and "Charlie’s Angels."

Rift Fournier, a producer, writer and director who had a thriving career in television despite having been stricken with polio as a teenager, died Oct. 6 in St. Louis. He was 77.

Fournier co-produced the initial syndicated version of The Mike Douglas Show out of Cleveland in 1963; wrote episodes for such shows as Highway to Heaven, Charlie’s Angels, Kojak, NYPD Blue, Matlock, Baretta and Helltown; penned the 1977 telefilm Nowhere to Hide, starring Lee Van Cleef; and wrote, directed and produced the Emmy-winning children’s series Go!, which ran on NBC from 1973-76.

Fournier also wrote, produced, directed and narrated Cover Story, a half-hour magazine-style profile of entertainers that premiered on the USA Network in 1984.

Fournier was born in Wichita, Kan., and raised in Chicago and Omaha, Neb. At age 17, he climbed out of bed to answer the telephone, collapsed and never walked again.

“I didn't know [polio] was supposed to stop me from doing something,” Fournier told the Los Angeles Times in a 1986 interview. “You’ve heard the joke. ‘I never knew I was poor.… ’ Well, I never knew I was handicapped.”

In 1976, the President's Committee for Employment of the Physically Handicapped selected Fournier to be honored as the outstanding "handicapped artist" in television.

In 2007, Fournier arrived at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., as a commencement speaker and became an artist in residence in the School of Communications. He joined the faculty and worked until late September, when he went on leave because of illness.

Survivors include his children, Noel, Jolene, Jackee and Clarissa, his brother, J.B., and six grandchildren. A memorial service for Fournier will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Young Hall Auditorium at Lindenwood University.