November 01, 1999 12:00 PM

The party last June was to honor a producer of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but Jack Nicholson was the one feeling randy, baby. When he spotted The Practice‘s shagadelic Lara Flynn Boyle at the fête, “he was completely charmed,” says a Nicholson friend. “He started asking around to see who knew her. I don’t know who got them together.”

But together they are, smiling for the cameras all over Hollywood, after first keeping things quiet in an effort, perhaps, to spare the feelings of Boyle’s ex, Just Shoot Me‘s David Spade. By Sept. 12, the Jack and Lara show was finally ready for its first close-up, at the Emmys—where Spade, who was nominated, turned up with his mother. The couple also made the rounds at the Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad prizefight on Sept. 18 in Las Vegas and at Warren Beatty’s political coming-out speech in Beverly Hills on Sept. 30.

Ten years after Batman, it seems the Joker is still wild. But the generation-and-a-half gap between the ages of Nicholson, 62, whose daughter Jennifer (with actress Sandra Knight) is more than five years older than Boyle, and the 29-year-old former Twin Peaks star hasn’t merited a blip on the showbiz sensation radar. “Hello, where do you live?” quips the Nicholson friend. “That’s Hollywood. [Dating Jack] is like being with the king. [But] I’d be curious to see what her mother thought about the whole thing.” For the record, Sally Boyle, Lara’s mother and manager, is mum. But for Nicholson, this is a time to party like it’s 1959. “He’s acting like a teenager in love,” says his pal. “I’ve never seen him be this way around someone he’s dating. He seems very affectionate.”

Nicholson might just be grateful that the object of his affection is still in one piece. In the wee hours of July 8, he totaled the Mercedes he was driving in a collision with another car in the Hollywood Hills, though no criminal charges were filed and police said there were no serious injuries. Boyle, who was still dating Spade, was reportedly in the Mercedes at the time but bolted from the scene for fear of being linked with the actor. (She has refused to comment, and Los Angeles police won’t say whether she was Nicholson’s passenger.) Boyle called Spade to say she’d been in a wreck, says a Just Shoot Me insider, but “she was vague about the story and who she was with. [Spade] found out later it was Nicholson’s car.”

The wafer-thin Boyle is the latest in a long string of actresses wooed by Nicholson, who was filming Five Easy Pieces and dating costar Susan Anspach about the time Boyle was born, in 1970. While Nicholson moved on to long-running relationships with fellow thespians Anjelica Huston, now 48, and onetime waitress Rebecca Broussard, 36 (who bore Nicholson’s children Lorraine, 9, and Raymond, 7), Boyle was growing up poor in Chicago. (Her mother, then a clerical worker, split with Boyle’s father when Lara was 6. Mother and daughter still live together, in Los Angeles.) Boyle began studying acting at age 10 and moved to L.A. when she was 18. Her role as girl-next-door Donna Hayward in Twin Peaks led to an early ’90s romance with costar Kyle MacLachlan, which was followed by a brief relationship with MacGyver‘s Richard Dean Anderson.

As a couple, Nicholson and Boyle aren’t challenging Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s longevity record just yet, but we’re talking about the Jack of all babes here. “So far so good,” notes the Nicholson pal. “What is it—six weeks? Smooth sailing.”

Kyle Smith

Lyndon Stambler and Lorenzo Benet in Los Angeles

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