The Rev. Jerry Falwell announced yesterday that the PTL ministry's telethon fund-raising efforts have been postponed because of hate mail and crank telephone calls.

Falwell -- who took over the ministry from the Rev. Jim Bakker in March after Bakker's sexual encounter with a church secretary was revealed -- told viewers on the "PTL Club" show, which has been appealing for funds for the past nine days, that the toll-free number for contributions will not be operating for a few days. He asked that viewers instead write in with their pledges and reminded his audience that the ministry needs $1,748,000 by next Friday to avoid laying off workers and to keep the Heritage USA Christian theme park in Fort Mill, S.C., open.

Falwell also read from Thursday's hate mail and phone message log: "Hope you fall on your face," said one letter-writer. "In the name of Jesus, I hope you rot in hell," said another. "I'm going to kill Dr. Falwell somewhere someplace," wrote a third.

Documents released earlier in the week showed PTL has a $66 million debt, which the ministry has tried to erase through the stepped-up fund-raising, including the telethon.

Betty Ford Has Surgery Former first lady Betty Ford underwent vascular surgery yesterday to clear the artery on the left side of her neck. She was listed in stable condition at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The two-hour operation was needed to remove fatty deposits in the carotid artery that could have brought on a stroke. A hospital spokesman said the 69-year-old Ford is expected to remain hospitalized for at least two days. He said the surgery was routine, with no complications.

Former Beatles File Suit It's not exactly a reunion, but former Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr are teaming up with Yoko Ono, the late John Lennon's wife, for some legal wrangling. The three are suing Capitol Records and its parent company, EMI, for $40 million, saying they were cheated out of royalties from compact disc sales of their music.

Paul McCartney is not officially party to the suit, but he still figures in as a 25 percent owner of Apple, the Beatles' last recording label. The suit, filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, asks $20 million in out-of-pocket damages and $20 million in punitive damages. The former Beatles and Ono also are charging EMI-Capitol with unfairly withholding CDs of the group's music in a bid to force the group to settle another lawsuit. The former Beatles already have a $50 million breach-of-contract suit alleging they were cheated out of royalties by Capitol between 1969 and 1979.

Parading With Poindexter Officials in Odon, Ind., announced yesterday that one of the town's favorite sons, Rear Adm. John Poindexter, will return to his home town Aug. 18 as grand marshal of the town's annual parade.

Poindexter, President Reagan's former national security adviser, completed testimony this week before congressional investigators probing the Iran-contra affair. He will speak during Odon's Old Settlers Days celebration, according to John Myers, editor of the town's weekly newspaper.

A street that runs in front of the town's old high school will be officially dedicated as John Poindexter Street during the celebration. A sign naming the three-block stretch for Poindexter was stolen last November and held for ransom by a local resident, but later was returned.

Warrant Dropped for Penn Now that Sean Penn is in West Germany, a warrant issued Monday for his arrest has been dropped. Penn, whose 60-day jail sentence was postponed because of his film commitments abroad, was supposed to be in West Germany when he was spotted partying in New York with his wife Madonna. "You'd think he would ... have the good sense not to appear in public," said Deputy City Attorney Alice Hand. "I guess he just didn't care." Penn is to begin serving his jail term in August.

Billington Confirmed as Librarian The Senate yesterday confirmed James Billington as the new librarian of Congress to succeed Daniel Boorstin. Billington, 58, is director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Library spokeswoman Nancy Bush said Billington, who is on a business trip to the Soviet Union, will take up his position in September.