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The eloquent conservative

Q & A:

Radio host talks politics, religion, why life is better in La Cañada Flintridge.

December 15, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
(Joe Piasecki/Valley…)

Author and syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager is one of the better conversationalists you'd ever meet, but he pulls no punches for political correctness' sake.

"Ask me anything," he invites during an afternoon meal at Ichiban Japanese Restaurant in La Cañada Flintridge — a favorite dining spot of his since moving here in 2007— handling chopsticks almost as deftly as he articulates deeply conservative politics and confident moral beliefs, relishing food and idea alike.

Though the afternoon's topics are controversial and his answers likely objectionable to those who disagree, Prager's manner remains steadily agreeable, conveying strength of conviction without the nastiness of a Limbaugh or the blustering rage common among cable-news pundits.

Prager's gift with words goes back long before his embrace of La Cañada — "Norman Rockwell-ville" and "a beautiful slice of America," he calls it — a city that is both the childhood home of his wife Susan (who as Susan Springett graduated from La Cañada High School, which her son now attends) and a stone's throw from the KRLA 870 AM studios in Glendale, where from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays Prager goes on the air.

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Susan Prager prods her husband to tell the story of his start in media, a tale that begins with the 1967 break in Soviet-Israeli relations following the Six Day War. Fluent in Russian and Hebrew, then 21-year-old Prager answered a call for young Americans to travel to the Soviet Union to take in prohibited Jewish religious items and collect names of Russian Jews who sought passage to Israel.

On his return, Prager, who became a fellow at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, traveled the lecture circuit and attracted the attention of what was then the Brandeis Institute in Simi Valley, where he was appointed director at 27 and was a few years later recruited by KABC 790 AM to host its popular "Religion on the Line" program.

"I was abnormal," the New York native says of his precocious 20s. "I've normalized since."

Kidding aside, Prager, 62, has certainly retained a deep commitment to the Jewish faith.

Shortly after his arrival in La Cañada Flintridge, Prager initiated local celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 2008 and 2009 at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club. The event attracted hundreds, but very few of them locals, he said, and was moved west last year to Studio City.

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