In this city of powerful politicians and ambitious journalists, WRC-TV's "Live at Five" co-anchor Susan Kidd can look you in the eye and say without blinking that she has no ambition.

"My old boss used to tell me that my biggest fault is that I had no ambition. I really don't. I'm not an ambitious person."

But she will admit to being confident. "I always thought I was somebody. I knew I was somebody. But being in television and having people know who I am, and the niceties that come to you, never meant that much to me because television is not who I am -- it's just what I do."

What she is, among other things, is a wife and a mother and a black woman who is concerned about blacks' perceptions of themselves. She is also affable and unpretentious, strikingly level-headed and outspoken to the point of being a bit salty.

Kidd had been working at WRC-TV for four years last August when news director Bret Marcus called her during her vacation at Walt Disney World to tell her she'd been named "Live at Five" co-anchor with Joel Spivak.

"They called me at HoJo's -- Howard Johnson's -- how embarrassing. I wasn't even at the hoity-toity hotel." Tired afer a day at the Florida theme park, she responded with a subdued, "That's great." "I think he wanted me to say something, but I was so exhausted that I said, 'That's really wonderful.' This is not something they'd discussed with me at all. {WRC station manager Jerry} Nachman gets on the phone and says, 'Well, we didn't think you'd mind.' I said, 'If it doesn't involve children or heat, I'm for it.'"

Kidd, her hsuband, Stanley Reid, and sons Aaron, 4, and Jordan, 2, had taken Eastern Arlines' economy package. "I'd told the travel agent, 'We're talking cheap.' We had a great time. It was hotter than a whore in church, but we had a great time. It was 100 degrees at elast."

Kidd is a formidable woman in many ways. Six feet tall, she freely admits that she wears a size 12 shoe and that she prayed her babies would be boys because she feared daughters would be "abnormally tall. Being 6 feet doesn't bother me, but I just knew that if we had girls, they were going to be 6-7. I think, to be a girl and be that tall, it's miserable."

Kidd, who turns 37 in October, met Reid not long after she arrived in Greensboro, N.C., to work at WFMY. He was there to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. "My hsuband's a babe. I trained him. I was 32 when I got married and he was 27. I met him when he was 18; I was 22. He was a friend of a guy I was dating. The guy I was dating ditched me, and Stanley let me cry on his shoulder for a long time."

After Kidd moved to St. Louis to work at KWWWW, Reid showed up for weekend visits each month. Eventually they flew to Jamaico to be married. But neither of them liked St. Louis.

"I think St. Louis has all the drawbacks of urban living and none of the amenities. What I didn't like about it is that among black people especially, it was almost a caste {system}.

"I remember saying in an interview that one of the places my husband and I loved to go was a little jazz club called The Moose. The Moose was a dive, but The Moose had great jazz. Nobody ever got cut or shot in there when we were in there. People were appalled. I got more 'How can you say you're an anchorwoman? How can you say that you go there?' It was just not what they wanted me to do.

"St. Louis is awfully conservative. It's ugly. People are antisemitic. I just did not like that town."

Still, Kidd, doing three newscasts a day each weekday, was "a major star in a town where sports people and news people were your celebrities. I did well there. We went to a station that was number three of three. It just had a horrible reputation. It had a news director who was know to say to his anchor people on election night, 'Well, just pick one. You have a 50-50 chance of being right.' Stuff like that. Horrible station.

"And everything jelled at once. The anchor team jelled. The promotion was great. The news director hired away the newspaper's premiere investigative reporter, who was short, fat, bald and had a glass eye -- he was not Geraldo Rivera, but he knew St. Louis like the back of his hand ... In a year's time we were number one."

While she was working at KXXXX, she anchored with religious fundamentalist "who got on my nerves ... Eventually, I made it clear to him that I did not care to go to church with him and I didn't particularly want him to proselytize me. And it was fine. He was not an obnoxious person about it.

"But our office was about this big, and he had Bible sayings pasted up on the wall. He knew that I wasn't supposed to be able to have children. When I got pregnant, he was very happy, and we were in this unisex bathroom painting our faces for the news and he said, 'Susan, the Lord has really blessed you. Now I know how you feel about certain things, but I really would like to pray.' So I said okay. I could use all the prayers I could get. He prayed and I listened, which I really appreciated, because he meant it from the heart. Maybe he helped. I don't turn down any prayers."

But the burden of being a celebrity in St. Louis followed Kidd to the hospital. "I got threatening letters that someone was going to steal Aaron from the hospital, some wacko. We informed the hospital." The letters didn't bother her as much as her stay in the maternity ward. "The night after Aaron was born, I looked like hell and I went out into the hall about 3 o'clock in the morning and this woman said, 'Aren't you Susan Kidd? Oh, we want your autograph.' I was just mortified. Because it was 3 in the morning and I looked like something the dog had brought in and they followed me into the room. I was scared to death they were going to wake him up."

Aaron was seven months old when Kidd was hired by WRC here and the family moved to Washington. Reid took a job as a salesman for WHUR radio, but in Kidd's eyes, his real talent is fatherhood.

"My husband is the world's best father. ... From the very beginning, he kept the baby at night by himself, diapered, the whole bit. He wanted boys too. 'These are my guys, me and the guys' -- he's really into that. Even when we have students living with us, he very rarely leaves them with the kids. He just loves to be with them.

"The little one went through a period when was getting up at 12, 12:30 a.m., and I was glad because I'd just be coming home and I could see him. But he wanted no part of me. And I'd try to hold him and he'd said, 'I want Daddy.' Stanley would hold him and he'd just go to sleep. That tore me up."

Susan Kidd grew up in Wilberforce, Ohio, near Xenia, home of two black universities, Wilberforce and Central State. Her father, with a PhD in business administration, was the dean of the college of business at Central State, her mother a librarian. She says she is a lot like her mother, by which she means strong-willed and independent.

"Wilberforce is not even a town. There is literally nothing there but the schools and some houses. The town is Xenia." In 1973, when Kidd was working for the CBS affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., Xenia was struck by a tornado. "I turned on the TV and Walter Cronkite is opening the CBS news with aerials of Xenia, Ohio, devastated."

When she was 12, Kidd lived with her parents and older sister in Nigeria while her father taught business administration there. "By the time I was 12 I had traveled half-way around the world. ... We traveled a lot around West Africa, and then on the way home, we did the tour of Europe and all that ... I remember Beirut: I have this memory of the most handsome people and the bluest sea and the ruins."

She returned home for high school in Xenia and enrolled in Albion College in Michigan, a decision that she calls "the biggest mistake of my life." Thirty of the 1,800 students were black when she enrolled, 60 when she graduated. "I think this is interesting because it has to do with how thoroughly black people are brainwashed in this country: When I got out of high school, I really thought I could get a better education if I went to a small, private, white school. My parents were both products of black institutions -- my mother went to Hampton, my father taught at a black university. My parents said, 'You can go wherever you can get in.'

"So I went to Albion College. I don't know why. After I was there a year I wanted to transfer, and my father said, 'Stay through your sophomore year and you won't lose so many credits.' After my sophomore year I'd fallen in love and I ended up staying until I graduated. Most of the white students were very wealthy. This was 1968. All the white kids had big, elaborate fraternity and sorority houses. We had the Afro Lodge. We had big pictures of Huey Newton and Angela Davis.

"I went to college with a bunch of kids who grew up in Grosse Point, Mich., and had never seen black people in their lives. I remember being in the bathroom my freshman year. I had chemicals in my hair -- I had the most leaping Afro -- and I was washing it, and this girl said, 'I didn't know you could wash your hair.' And I said, 'Well, what do you think we did with it?' And she said, 'I don't know.' Some people were offended by it but I thought it was hilarious. She was so serious.

"My best friend in the world {Marsha Gentry, a black student from the Pruitt-Eigle housing projects in St. Louis} was my roommate and I made a lot of good friends there, but my husband, who went to North Carolina A & T, which was a black university, loves his school, goes to homecoming. I could care less if Albion burns to the ground."

At Albion, Kidd, with "absolutely no idea what I wanted to do," majored first in sociology, then in English literature. "I was going to get a teaching certificate, and my father, who was a teacher and who loved to teach, said, 'There are just too many people teaching who don't want to teach. You will not get a teaching certificate as something to fall back on.' I said, 'Fine, I'll major in English lit. All I want to do is graduate.'

After earning her degree, she and a friend moved to Atlanta because they had heard the city was "a fun place to be." She worked first at a library, then did "secretary work."

"But I've always been a consumer of news. As a child, old friends would tease me that I read the paper as a child. As I recall I wasn't reading much -- probably the wedding announcements or something -- but I read the papers as a child. And my family watched the news. I can remember, Huntley and Brinkley lived in our house."

Other relatives say that when she was a child she told them she was planning to be on television. Kidd tends to scoff. "They're so excited that I'm in television that I think they've made this up."

What she does remember was watching television news in Atlanta and thinking, "'That looks like fun.' I had no thoughts about what it took -- I just thought I could do it. And I thought, 'Well, since you have no educational background, you have to do it from the bottom up.'

"So I got a job in Atlanta as a receptionist at WAGA. Judy Woodruff was the anchorwoman. I answered the phone and just hung around. I'd go into the control room at noontime and watch the noon news. Had no idea what was going on. People would be swearing and things would be flying in the control room ..."

In 1973, after about eight months at WAGA in which she cornered "any individual who came in to wait for an appointment," Kidd told the news director she wanted to be a reporter. "He was an obnoxious man, and he said, 'Have you ever been to charm school?' I said no. He said, 'It wouldn't be a bad idea. But I think you can do it. I've thrown away thousands of applications between San Francisco and here. But you can't start here. This is a big market. You have to go to some small town and pay your dues.'"

The news director gave her the names of some contacts, including that of Dave Wright, the news director at WFMY in Greensboro. "He said, 'You know, television is a visual medium. If you had to shoot a story about the gas prices, what sort of pictures would you show?' I said, 'Mr. Wright I have no idea. I don't know anything about this. But I work hard and I learn fast and if you hire me you won't regret it.' I'd been offered a job at one of the wire services, about the same time that this interview with WFMY came around. So I said, 'Mr. Wright, if you don't hire me, I'm going to take this job with AP or UPI, whichever it was, and I'm coming back next year and I'm going to bug the hell out of you again.' And he hired me."

Since those early days in Greensboro, Kidd has developed a philosophical attitude about working on-camera. "I've seen people be devastated by being taken off the air. After the first couple of years I was in TV and I observed this, I said to myself, 'If it happens -- it's going to happen -- it's not going to be the end of the world.' I think there's enough hurt that comes to you in life without hurting yourself.

"My father died of cancer about two months after I got in television -- he never saw me on TV. My father was a workaholic and when he realized he wasn't going back to work I think he willed himself to die. His accomplishments, coming out of Vidalia, Ga., becoming a PhD and becoming a college professor, I think, were just incredible. I think because of my father's death, which made me think about things, and because I watched people over the years just damned near suicidal when these things were taken away from them, I always thought, 'I'll never do that to myself.'

"My parents, I guess, they're responsible for that. My mother's brother and my father's sister were factory workers and hairdressers, but we were never allowed to think of ourselves as being better than they were. One of the worst beatings in my life I got in Eufala, Ala., when some kids said something about their 'feets' -- and I said, "Feets? It's not feets. It's feet." And my mother tried to murder me: 'Who do you think you are?'

"So I guess that has to do with them, because they believe that they'd worked hard but they'd been fortunate, that somehow things had just worked out for them and that did not make them above or below anybody else, and they made us understand that. Sometimes I wonder how my parents did what they did. I had it very easy. My parents were both educated people. She often said she knew as a child she did not want to stay in Eufala, Ala. And I've often wondered why. There wasn't TV. But she said she just knew."There are some people who come from rural southern backgrounds who want to hide, who want to pretend that they've always been at a certain level. We weren't like that.

"I think there are a lot of people who just fall into the feeling that they're important because of what they do. The public is fickle. If I get all wrapped up in the fact that I feel that people know me, then what becomes of me when they go on to somebody new? -- which they will."

Kidd admits that doing weekday newscasts will be "more exciting -- there are more resources devoted to them. When I worked weekends I wasn't miserable about them because I kept saying to myself 'I'd rather being doing weekends here than weekdays in St. Louis,' which I hated. And when I went into televison I didn't know that you became important, and that never became important to me.

"One of the things {WRC management} used to say when talking to me about coming, they would say, 'You know, in Washington you're not going to be important because the president's there and Congress,' and I said, 'Fine, I don't particuarly care about that.' They kept saying that to me, expecting a blow to the ego ... It didn't really matter to me."

What does matter, at least for the moment, is that Kidd, a woman who says she "loathes makeup and isn't particularly interested in clothes," is faced with changing her working wardrobe. "Over the years I've always bought clothes from just the waist up only. So now on this 'Live at Five' set I'm going to be interviewing people, and that means I have to wear stockings -- that's horrible in the summertime. My stockings come off in May and don't reappear until the first frost. It's really a problem. I have about six or seven things that I can wear."

Working weekdays, she thinks, will also be more convenient for her family, allowing her "to be able to go to the beach like other people do with their husband and their kids." On Saturday mornings, she takes the boys to swim classes at the Y.

"I love it here. My husband loves it. I think this is the best place to have children. But if we go to the Museum of Natural History again, I'll die -- we must have been at least a million times." The museum, she adds, is Aaron's favorite.

"I have very little social life and maybe I was a better employee in St. Louis when I wasn't married and didn't have children because I went everywhere, I did all the political, social, meet-these-folks things. But when I came here, once I had a baby, then my priorities changed. Now I work and I go home. And I don't worry about it either. I do very few things that would take away from the time I could be with them.

"I think I've learned Washington like mothers learn it: I go places my kids want to go. I travel across town to Southeast for my pediatrician. I've not thrown myself into learning Washington the way I did St. Louis. On the other hand, I have a perspective that a whole lot of other folks have who try to work and raise kids at the same time."

She has also realized that for blacks, the images presented in her medium, television, and the print media have significant impact. "I really do worry about that. We lived in West Africa for two years, my parents are products of black institutions, my father taught at a black university: How was it that I, at 18, made a conscious decision I did not want to go to a black school because I thought they were not as good? And I know that's not true.

"I wonder how that happened. I think that it's just the power of the media. When you open a magazine and you see women who are supposed to be beautiful, they by and large are not black women, or they don't look like most black women. They're lighter. In our neighborhood, everybody on our street was a PhD, everybody there tuaght at the university, and all their wives were very light-skinned -- what we call 'high yellow.' They were all high-yellow women.

"I ran away from home once because I wanted Shirley Temple curls. My mother put my hair in the 15 pigtails all the black girls have, and I wanted Shirley Temple curls. So I ran up the road, and I knocked on this woman's door -- pretty bold, now that I think about it, I was 6 or 7 -- and I said, 'I've run away from home. Can I live here?' She really was a neighbor, but it seemed to me that I had really walked quite a distance. And she said, 'Sure. You can live here.' Of course she called my folks, unbeknownst to me. I got to stay there all day, and when I got home my father gave me the only whipping I ever remember him giving me. It was because I wanted Shirley Temple curls.

"My childhood idol was Annette Funicello. That's true of many women my age. I thought Annette was the be-all and end-all of womanhood."

Somewhere along the way, Kidd came to terms with being black in a largely white business and concludes, "We're pretty happy people. We've got a houseful of folks -- we either have college students living with us, or his sister or somebody is in our house all the time. Fortunately my husband has not had problems with being 'the husband of ...' He doesn't like to be called Mr. Kidd -- it's not his name.

"I didn't know when I took this job you made a lot of money and I didn't know you became a 'personality.' My best friend thinks it's a scream. If we go somewhere and someone asks me for my autograph, she thinks it's a hoot. I think it's a pain in the ass more than anything else.

"What can I do about it? I don't believe in having problems. I really don't. My mother never had time for them, so I don't have time either. If something goes wrong, I figure out a way to fix it. If Plan A doesn't work, I try Plan B. And then if I can't fix it, I learn to live with it. I don't know whether that's good or bad ... I don't get upset about things over which I have no control."

Kidd relates an anecdote involving trying to get her son into a "pre-K" class at Lafayette School with a male teacher. She was successful. "This is great. How many men will my son have as a teacher?" She beams. "My husband says we're the Cosbys -- we really are. We are a whole, black family, and I like that."