Dave Dave

Dave Dave, born David Charles Rothenberg and later David Jordan Robinson,[1] was a conceptual artist whose father was found guilty of attempting to kill him by burning in 1983, when he was six years old.

Dave Dave
David Charles Rothenberg

(1976-06-18)June 18, 1976
DiedJuly 15, 2018(2018-07-15) (aged 42)
Las Vegas, Nevada, US
Other namesDavid Jordan Robinson

Attempted murderEdit

David Rothenberg was six years old and living with his mother, Marie Rothenberg, in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York,[2] when his father, Charles Rothenberg, took him on a trip to Disneyland, in California. The parents were divorced[3] and in conflict over custody of David; after the two argued on the telephone, on the evening of March 3, 1983, at a motel in Buena Park, Charles gave his son a sleeping pill and after he fell asleep, poured kerosene on the bed and set fire to it. He left the room and watched from a telephone booth across the street while other guests rescued David.[4][5][6][7]

David Rothenberg had third-degree burns over 90% of his body; he required finger and toe amputations[8] and received a total of more than a hundred skin grafts.[9] He was badly disfigured and during one grafting operation experienced brain swelling that led to seizures and other complications.[10] Charles Rothenberg, who stated that he had originally intended to kill himself as well as his son, was sentenced in July 1983 to 13 years in prison, the maximum permitted at the time for his offenses;[10] guidelines were changed as a result of the case.[7] He was released in 1990 on three years' supervised parole after serving seven years.[9][11] After two years he fled, but turned himself in to authorities.[1] In 1996 he was tried for a shooting in Oakland,[12] at which time Dave, then 19, visited him in prison;[4][6][13] he read a statement to him in which he stated that Charles Rothenberg was "not a father but an imposter".[7] In 1998 Charles Rothenberg changed his name to Charley Charles, and in 2007, after also being convicted of various offenses in two other states,[7] under California's three strikes law he was sentenced to 25 years to life for weapons offenses in San Francisco.[4][13] As of December 2019, Charles, age 79, is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison. He is eligible for parole as of January 2019.[14]

David Rothenberg made television appearances, met celebrities including Michael Jordan,[8] and became a friend and protégé of Michael Jackson,[4][5][7] Marie Rothenberg married Richard Hafdahl, a police officer who had supervised the fire investigation, and moved to Orange County, California with David.[6][11] In 1985 she published a book titled David,[3] which was adapted into the 1988 TV movie of the same name.[15] In 2019, Marie Rothenberg and Mel White reissued her book as David's Story: burned by his father's rage, healed by his mother's love [3] with update and additional material.

Later life and careerEdit

Rothenberg attended ArtCenter College of Design.[5] By 1996 he was using only his first name;[7] he then legally changed his name to Dave Dave, to "free myself of [Charles Rothenberg's] name and his legacy", as he said then.[6][7] He became a house music DJ, music producer and rap musician;[2] in 1996 he directed a music video for Kelli Lidell.[7] He later focused on conceptual art in Las Vegas.[4][5] His work included a project titled Lifted that he said grew out of "a conscious desire to inspire others to be greater than themselves"[6] and collaborations with artists including Sheridee Hopper.[5]

Dave died on July 15, 2018, at the age of 42 at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas from complications due to pneumonia.[4][16]


  1. ^ a b Bill Billiter; Nancy Wride (March 6, 1992). "Rothenberg Flees, Then Surrenders". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ a b "Artist bio: Dave Dave". ReverbNation. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Marie Rothenberg; Mel White (January 6, 1985). "The Searing Tale Of A Father`s Deadly Crime". Chicago Tribune. Excerpted from David.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Dave Dave, whose father set him on fire in 1983, dies at 42". San Francisco Chronicle. AP. August 16, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e F. Andrew Taylor (August 4, 2016). "Through life, Las Vegas artist Dave Dave finds inspiration for his work after childhood tragedy". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  6. ^ a b c d e Corina Knoll (August 16, 2018). "Dave Dave, an artist disfigured after his father set him on fire, dies at 42". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Sean Emery (August 16, 2018) [August 15, 2018]. "Dave Dave, the former David Rothenberg who was set afire by his dad in Buena Park 35 years ago, dies at 42". Orange County Register.
  8. ^ a b "'Air' Michael Does His Stuff For 13-year-old Burn Victim". Orlando Sentinel. January 30, 1990.
  9. ^ a b Annette Haddad (January 24, 1990). "Burn victim says wounds will heal when father's dead". UPI.
  10. ^ a b "Man gets term for burning son". Los Angeles Times. AP, UPI. July 30, 1983. p. 8 – via Milwaukee Journal.
  11. ^ a b "Man Who Burned His Son in 1983 Is to Be Freed From California Jail". The New York Times. AP. January 23, 1990. p. 21.
  12. ^ Kevin Fagan (January 26, 1996). "Dad Who Set Son Afire Rages in Court / He denies shooting at Oakland hotel". San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ a b Marisa Lagos (April 4, 2007). "Rothenberg sentenced 25 years to life under three-strike law". San Francisco Chronicle.
  14. ^ "CDCR Inmate Locator: Charley Charles". Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  15. ^ Nancy Mills (October 24, 1988). "Bernadette Peters Becomes the Logical Choice for TV's 'David'". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ "Dave Dave, who was set afire as boy, died of natural causes". San Francisco Chronicle. AP. October 23, 2018. Archived from the original on October 23, 2018.

External linksEdit