here's little doubt that the life of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, that often abrasive man who takes pride in having built his own empire without help from Daddy or anyone else, would make a great read. But that book would not be easy to write, and Cooke is not likely to be cooperative with a biography he doesn't control. Washington writer Adrian Havill has a contract with St. Martin's Press for an unauthorized work tentatively titled "Citizen Cooke" or "Jack Kent Cooke: The Man With the Most Toys." And late last week, Havill wrote a series of letters requesting interviews from Cooke and some of the celebrated Redskins fans who spend football Sundays with him in the owner's box at RFK: syndicated columnist George Will, CBS-TV correspondent Lesley Stahl and playwright Larry L. King.

Havill says he has already done most of his research in Toronto, near where Cooke was born and spent much of his life. He claims that a former schoolmate of Cooke's related a tale that shows the billionaire was just as brash as a youth as he is now. According to the story, Cooke, then about 13, was acting up with a schoolmate in the back of the classroom when the teacher, a Miss Knight, said in anger, "If you children think you can teach this class better, I'd like to see you do it." Cooke, the schoolmate says, walked to the front of the room, took the teacher's book and said to the class, "Turn to Page 81."

Asked if he expects Cooke to respond to his request for an interview, Havill said, "I may get a one-sentence letter -- 'May you rot in hell!' -- but I expect a response. I don't think he'll ignore it."

Out and About The venerable Philadelphia Orchestra has named guest conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch music director for the 1993-94 season, succeeding Riccardo Muti, who will leave the orchestra when his contract runs out next year. Sawallisch, who was chosen from more than 230 candidates, is also music director and general director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Sawallisch becomes the sixth director since Fritz Scheel first took the podium in 1900. The others were Carl Pohlig, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and Muti ...

Actor Dennis Hopper, 54, and his 23-year-old dancer-choreographer wife, Katherine LaNasa, are the parents of a baby boy. Hopper, who is best known for his roles in "Easy Rider" and "Blue Velvet," was in Georgia filming the movie "Paris Trout" when his wife entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles Tuesday to have the baby a week earlier than expected. They have named the child Harry Lee Hopper ...

Comedian Joan Rivers's daughter is no longer going to be known as Melissa Rosenberg. The 22-year-old daughter of Rivers and the late Edgar Rosenberg said in an interview on "Geraldo," to be broadcast tomorrow, that she is changing her name to Melissa Rivers. She said she was doing it "out of respect for my mother ... everyone knows my last name is Rosenberg and I think it's time my mom has gotten a lot of credit for what she has done," she said. Another reason she gave is that as a researcher for the television show "911," "when you are calling and trying to get stories, a lot of times Rivers fits in the little message box a lot more easily than Rosenberg does" ...

Charles Fleischer, the Chevy Chase native who achieved fame as the voice of Roger Rabbit, will be in town Monday to join Barbara Bush at a White House reception for those who participated in "Mrs. Bush's Story Time," a program airing on ABC radio nationally for 10 weeks. In his Roger Rabbit voice, Fleischer reads the children's story "The Empty Pot" along with the First Lady. It is part of the Children's Literacy Initiative and ABC's Project Literacy ...

Milestone: Duke Zeibert, the man who has been serving chicken-in-the-pot in this town for longer than he cares to remember, turns 80 on Saturday ...