Cus spoke in the accent of his native Bronx, read Thoreau, wore a black homburg with all the aplomb of a prime minister, believed in astrology and had a giant telescope at his training camp, through which he often peered for hours at the stars. A high school dropout, Cus served in the Army in World War II, even though he had lost the use of his left eye in a street fight. Ever one to give his all to a cause he believed in, he was determined to be the best soldier in the Army, and to toughen himself he slept on the floor instead of a cot, shaved with cold water and made himself stand at attention for hours.
Back home, Cus slept on the floor of a gym he ran on Manhattan's East 14th Street, not so much because he was trying to toughen himself but because he was broke. Nevertheless, when some friends asked for a loan, he went out and borrowed the money so he could lend it to them. "Of all character traits, the most valuable to Cus was loyalty," Jacobs says.
Cus was an avid bass fisherman. Although he was an eager purchaser of every kind of lure, he had a favorite, the Mepps spinner, popular in Europe. He was absolutely smitten by the Mepps spinner. On a boxing trip to London he went into Hardy's, the toniest of tackle shops, and bought 1,500 of them. Cus brought them back to New York and stored them in boxes in his office closet. Whenever he felt down in the dumps, he would haul the boxes out of the closet, open them up and gaze rapturously at the Mepps spinners gleaming in the light. "My vice," he confided.
One morning a friend went to Cus's room to wake him up for a fishing trip. Cus carefully spread his trousers out on the floor. Then he pulled both trouser legs toward him and, with a leap and a shout, was on his feet with his pants on. Cus explained to the bewildered friend, "When guys in boxing come to me and try to put the bull on me, they say, 'Listen, D'Amato, you're no different from me. When you get dressed, you put your pants on one leg at a time.' And you know what I do when they say that? I laugh. I just have to laugh."