May 27, 2003 12:00 PM

One hundred years ago — Thursday, to be exact — Bob Hope was born, under the name Leslie Townes Hope.

In school he was called Les Hope — which the kids teased him about (say the name slowly) — and as he began his professional career, the boy born in England but raised since age 4 in Cleveland, where his stonemason father had resettled the family, called himself Packy East. That’s because the youngster had tried to become a professional fighter.

But when he turned to comedy in vaudeville, the young comer thought “Bob” Hope sounded the friendliest.

And so, the world’s oldest living funnyman was launched, and he will spend his historic natal day with his loving wife of nearly 70 years, Dolores — who turned 94 on Tuesday — at his side on their 7-acre estate in North Hollywood.

It will be a quiet celebration, though last Thursday the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., paid tribute to the star of stage, screen, radio, TV and battlefields with a special song-and-dance revue, which was attended by three of Bob and Dolores’s children.

Over Memorial Day weekend there was another honor paid Hope aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City, Hope’s longtime publicist, Ward Grant, tells Additional recognition is expected on Thursday from city, state and even the federal government.

Speaking to the Associated Press, elder daughter Linda Hope, 63, who produced the recent two-hour NBC tribute to her father, said, “We’re going to have kind of a quiet family birthday celebration because Dad’s pretty much confined to his room to the house. So the family will be coming in.

“In fact, that’s enough. It’s a pretty big group when you get spouses and the families. We’re going to have a celebration at home with a huge cake.”

As for her father’s physical condition, she said, “He has days when he is good and is on top of things very much like the dad that I remember. And other days when he is kind of quiet and keeps to himself.”

And the legendary sense of humor?

“He doesn’t really tell jokes anymore. But he loves to hear a good joke,” she said. “His face lights up. He still has that. Somebody will say something, and then he’ll say something that makes it into a joke. It’s very much a part of him.”

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