When Prince Charles met Dan Quayle in Japan last November at Prince Akihito's enthronement, he never guessed what a strong grip the vice president had. According to an item in the London Daily Telegraph earlier this month, when Charles was asked about the continuing weakness in the arm he broke playing polo, the prince reportedly replied: "It was fine until I shook hands with Dan Quayle."

Concerned that his strength might threaten relations with the British royals, Quayle sent a letter to Charles this week, saying, "I am sorry if I contributed to the agony." Then the vice president added that he was enclosing a "foam Flex-A-Grip" to bring the prince's hand back to full strength "so you will be prepared for handshaking and polo." Now we know how Quayle developed such a killer grip. The device is used by golf players to help their games.

Out and About

Somebody at the Kennedy Center apparently has taken sides in the Persian Gulf war. In the Hall of Nations, where the flags hang of countries with whom the United States has diplomatic relations, Iraq's was missing ...

New York Philharmonic Music Director Zubin Mehta, who was to be here Saturday to conduct the Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center, changed his plans so he could be in Israel during the Persian Gulf crisis. Mehta, who is neither Jewish nor an Israeli, is in Tel Aviv, home of the Israel Philharmonic, of which he is the music director for life. In a letter to his New York Philharmonic colleagues, Mehta explained that "during the flight from Munich to Paris ... I could not help feeling that I was going in the wrong direction. For the last 30 years, not only an orchestra but an entire country has adopted me, and I find it impossible at this moment to be anywhere else but with them. Although it might seem highly unprofessional of me, I find it impossible to be in New York at this moment." The orchestra's assistant conductor, Samuel Wong, will substitute for Mehta ...

Hospital Report: Eunice Shriver was reported to be in stable but serious condition yesterday afternoon at Sibley Memorial Hospital, where she was taken after being involved in a head-on traffic collision at Canal Road and Arizona Avenue. The 69-year-old sister of Sen. Ted Kennedy suffered breaks in both arms, according to the hospital, and is expected to make a total recovery. According to a preliminary police report, the car driven by Shriver crossed the center line and collided with a van driven by Maurice J. Settles, 37, of Oxon Hill. Settles was not injured. The police said they are continuing to investigate the accident ...

Historical note: John F. Kennedy Jr. -- with his mother, Jacqueline Onassis, and sister, Caroline Kennedy, looking on, was sworn in this week as a member of the New York State Bar along with 80 other lawyers at Manhattan Supreme Court. It was a quiet ending to his public embarrassment of needing three attempts to pass the bar ...

"Shogun," the lavish $6 million musical based on James Clavell's epic novel about Japan, which opened last year at the Kennedy Center to critical disdain, closes Sunday after a two-month Broadway run ...

Royal Watch: Queen Elizabeth has her standards. Looking out the window at some $10 million worth of construction going on about Windsor Castle, she did not like the way the red cranes clashed with the surroundings, according to Knight-Ridder Newspapers. She ordered the contractor to have them painted blue to fit in better. And that was one of the more significant things she did that day ...