Syndicated columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is a writer with searing rhetorical flair. His talent is one that needs to be handled with care. In a recent column about the quality of presidential hopefuls, he decided to use the imagery of wigs and toupees as devices that fool no one, adding in a sarcastic slap at candidate Gary Hart that "Gary Hart, of course, wears a toupee." Tyrrell said his phone has been ringing ever since with the pointed question: "Does Gary Hart really wear a toupee?"

Tyrrell said yesterday that he received a call from a Parade magazine reporter who said he had called the Hart campaign organization to see if the candidate did indeed wear a toupee. When he told Tyrrell about the denial he received, the columnist responded, "Who do you trust, Gary Hart or me?" A toupee would be the final straw. "You can say what you want about a man's sex life," Tyrrell said, laughing, "but when you talk about his hair, you are entering a dangerous area." Out and About Grace Jones' demands for caviar, sushi and expensive champagne in her dressing room at Tracks were dutifully met, but it didn't help. Sunday night she angered her audience by showing up two hours late and singing only three songs. Then Monday night she told Tracks' management that she would again do only three songs and that if they protested, she would only do two. After all, she argued, she gets $25,000 per song in New York. The Tracks management said no thanks, and Jones, as fierce as she looks, walked out. Ticket-holders' money was refunded, and the drinks were on the house. Martin Chernoff, the club's promotion director, said yesterday Jones "projects a bitchy image and lives up to it in person" ...

If things don't work out in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gary Hart has his fiction to fall back on. In fact, Worldwide Library is moving into a major advertising campaign to sell his 1987 novel "The Strategies of Zeus" in a paperback edition scheduled for publication in March. The book will have a first printing of 250,000 and will come out with two cover designs, one bright red and one bright blue, both dominated by the name GARY HART in raised silver lettering. This one will be hard to miss on your neighborhood drugstore shelves. Katherine Orr, director of public relations for Harlequin Enterprises, which owns Worldwide Library, said there is considerable interest in the Hart book even though, she quipped, "We're not printing it on rice paper." As to printing the author's name so much bigger than the book's title, she said, "We're not stupid" ...

Yes, that was Mr. Democrat, Robert Strauss, having a quiet lunch yesterday at the Jockey Club with First Lady Nancy Reagan ...

Hospital Report: Doctors said U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield was recovering satisfactorily yesterday after triple coronary bypass surgery at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The 84-year-old Mansfield, who served in Congress for 34 years, 16 as Senate majority leader, underwent surgery last month at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, but Walter Reed spokesman Peter Esker said the earlier operation was minor and unrelated to the heart problem. Esker described Mansfield's surgery as uneventful ...

New York Mayor Edward I. Koch is not giving up the good fight. He's still angry about the $7 ticket price at Manhattan movie houses and is determined to lead a boycott. On Monday night the mayor stood outside two theaters owned by Cineplex Odeon and said, "We will not be abused, we will not be taken advantage of." The movie theater managers are not commenting; they just hope Koch will go away. And he hasn't even said anything yet about tiny screens and stale popcorn ...

If you were really on the inside track this Christmas you would have received a watch from Pia Zadora. The Pia watch has black hands that make it difficult to tell time accurately, but it does have Pia's smiling face on it ...

With all the debate about condoms at the U.S. Catholic Conference, one staff person said the issue is referred to there as the "Trojan Wars" ...